In the midst of the disastrous launch of the federal and state insurance exchanges in the final weeks of 2013, it was easy to forget about one of the other seriously problematic elements of Obamacare that came into effect with the new year: the HHS contraception mandate.  But, as I argue in a column at National Review Online, one of the saddest things about this debacle is how the rights of religious employers have been trampled for no other reason than providing Democrats with a divisive social issue to run on in the 2012 election.

As the legal wrangling continues, it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that this clash between sweeping health-policy objectives and religious freedom was inevitable at some point, and that a judicial remedy can help define where the lines should be drawn going forward.

But this is far too benign a view of how this issue came about. There was nothing inevitable about this fight. The truth is that the Obama administration manufactured this confrontation and did so for entirely political reasons. Prior to 2011, the Obama administration never argued that the lack of access to “free” contraceptives and sterilization procedures, especially among women, was a burning national crisis that demanded immediate attention. The administration never raised this as an issue because there was no such crisis. Contraceptives have long been readily available and inexpensive in this country. The federal government subsidizes large numbers of clinics that provide these products essentially at no direct cost to consumers or for very low cost.

You can read the rest of the piece here at NRO.