LAKEWOOD, COLO.–The night of the Florida Republican primary, Hotline National editor Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) Tweeted, "Romney line about religious liberty CLEAR reference to Obama health law on contraceptives. Sleeper issue in general."
With the Colorado Republican caucuses on Tuesday, I can only respond, "Oh please oh please oh please."
Here's the real question: How much will former Gov. Mitt Romney and the Republican Party's hostility to birth control cost them with voters, especially women voters, in the fall?
This is not about religion. This is about a Republican party actively campaigning against contraception, something that is enormously popular with the electorate. I would love nothing more than Mitt Romney going around the country telling voters he wants to take their birth control away, which he's pretty much doing already. Seriously dude, bring it.
According to the Center for Disease Control, 99 percent of American women use birth control during their reproductive lifetime. According to a Reuters report on a Guttmacher Institute study, 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women use some form of birth control banned by the church. And a NPR/Thompson Reuters poll found that 77 percent of Americans favor insurance coverage for the birth control pill.
In swing state Colorado, there are approximately 114,000 more women voters than men, and they vote in higher percentages than men do. Personhood measures that would ban birth control have failed repeatedly by landslide margins, and the 2010 version probably cost Ken Buck a Senate seat. Personhood even failed in Mississippi, the most religious-conservative state in the country.
Meanwhile all the Republican candidates are actively campaigning against Title X and family planning funding. A plank in the Republican platform upholds the "life begins at conception" foundation of "personhood", which would ban the most commonly-used forms of contraception such as the Pill and IUDs. Mitt Romney has repeatedly embraced "personhood", most notably in 2005 when he vetoed a bill expanding access to emergency contraception for rape survivors "because it would terminate a living embryo after conception".
For those of you, like Mitt Romney, unsure how birth control works and why "personhood" would ban it Rachel Maddow goes into the Man Cave to explain it all to you.
As for the Obama administration's decision that Catholic institutions have a year to figure out how to include birth control in their insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, Rep. Xavier Becerra, a Catholic, explained it beautifully on Meet the Press: Religious employers, like any other business that offers insurance, can't discriminate against women by excluding reproductive healthcare.
Anyone who doubts the power of contraception and women's healthcare as an issue need only see the blowback against the Komen foundation by supporters of Planned Parenthood. I've been in politics for 20 years, and I've never seen a public fusillade like this one. Komen badly underestimated not only how many Americans have used Planned Parenthood's services—1 in 5—but how many people support Planned Parenthood because they provide healthcare, including birth control, without judgment.
The pundit class piled on George Stephanopoulos for asking a question about contraception at the January ABC News debate. Apparently since it didn't fit within the Cool Kids Acceptable Topics list, it wasn't worth asking. And Romney fumbled the question badly, just as badly as he did the question on releasing his taxes. It was the rhetorical equivalent of strapping the dog kennel to the top of his car.
But it's entirely worth asking for the millions of average American working families who get by on $50,000 a year and can't afford to have another kid. It's entirely relevant to millions of American women whose economic and physical well-being is dictated by when and if they get pregnant. Self-determining the size of your family is a baseline economic issue.
Mitt Romney and the Republicans are welcome to campaign against contraception all they want, because they are on the wrong side of that issue with voters by a landslide.