Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, recently remarked on the latest negotiations with the White House. "You can't compromise on principle," he said. "The goal posts haven't moved and I don't think there's a 50-yard-line compromise here." Bishop after bishop keeps using the same words: "We will not, we cannot comply."
Most Catholics, if forced to choose between complying with a government order they consider immoral and helping the poor, will choose helping the poor every time. I doubt they will roll over on this one, either by pre-emptively closing their doors or ending all healthcare coverage for their employees. There's a good chance that many of the hospitals, universities, and social service agencies in question will continue to operate as they always have, serving people of many faiths and offering reasonable healthcare coverage to their employees that doesn't include abortion-inducing drugs—in effect, daring their own government to fine them millions.
This controversy is uniting Catholics and non-Catholics, Christians and Jews across the board, and it has the potential to unify fiscal and social conservatives within the Republican Party. It's safe to say that most Republicans—and many independents—can agree that providing free abortion-inducing drugs to all women is not a legitimate function of the federal government. Rather than proving the conventional wisdom that the Catholic Church and Republicans hate women and will do anything to make contraception illegal, the administration's position reminds voters of what they know to be true. They know that an ever-expanding government is a threat to our economic and religious freedom. They fear that as the expansion continues unchecked, it threatens our children's futures, our constitutional rights, and, in the end, our democracy. That's why the conventional wisdom is wrong, and why this issue matters to women.