Last week, Susan G. Komen for the Cure tried to suspend breast screening grants to Planned Parenthood on account of its performing abortions. This week, the Obama administration tried to require Roman Catholic hospitals, universities, and charities to provide free contraception to women.
Last week, progressives rose up, defending PP's work and women's right to privacy. PP will get its money for the time being, permitting it to continue to offer breast screenings to patients who otherwise couldn't afford them. This week, conservatives rose up, defending the independence of religious institutions. Under a compromise announced today by the president, employees at Catholic institutions would still have access to free birth control, but on the insurance companies' nickel instead of the pope's lira, a distinction perhaps designed to satisfy discerning students of the complicated teaching embodied in Mark 12:17.
And that's how it's done in a free and diverse society. It's been a bloody, noisy, anxious mess, but there's a certain beauty to the symmetry of it (with women's only recently won right to self-determination at the heart of both narratives) as well as to the way violently differing viewpoints and the balance of personal vs. constitutional and secular vs. religious were all worked out. In both matters only the most inflexible absolutists have nothing to show for themselves, while those who feel most comfortable in the middle of the road are probably happiest of all.