Take a look at the White House fact sheet just released on the president's "accommodation" on the Health and Human Services ruling on contraceptives and religious liberty:
Under the new policy to be announced today, women will have free preventive care that includes contraceptive services no matter where she [sic] works. The policy also ensures that if a woman works for a religious employer with objections to providing contraceptive services as part of its health plan, the religious employer will not be required to provide, pay for or refer for contraception coverage, but her insurance company will be required to directly offer her contraceptive care free of charge.
The new policy ensures women can get contraception without paying a co-pay and fully accomodates [sic] important concerns raised by religious groups by ensuring that objecting non-profit religious employers will not have to provide contraceptive coverage or refer women to organizations that provide contraception.
The language above reads that "women" (I believe the president means all women) will be receiving free preventive care under the Affordable Care Act, including contraception without a co-pay, "no matter where she works." And a woman's "insurance company will be required to directly offer her" free contraception. What has changed from earlier this week?
The administration is trying to pull a fast one here. "No matter where she works" sure sounds to me like it includes all religious employers. According to the language above, religious employers will still be compelled to offer health insurance to their employees that includes contraception, especially the morning-after pill—by the way, I don't think any Catholic considers a morning-after pill to be "preventive care"—only now under the guise that it's the insurance companies, not the employers, who are offering the healthcare plans. In our family, we get our health insurance through my husband's employer. Like most families, when we have issues with our coverage, it's not the H.R. department at my husband's office that I call. I call the health insurance company. Everyone knows that it is health insurance companies, not the employers, who offer the actual coverage. That's why this announcement today doesn't pass the smell test.
It doesn't change a thing. It's no surprise that Planned Parenthood released a statement in support of today's decision before the president had even announced it.
It's clear that the president felt he had to move quickly here, and I think the lack of thoughtfulness is going to backfire. It was obvious to anyone watching the news this week that this had become bigger than a fight about contraception and bigger than the Republican Party. It was becoming even bigger than Catholic voters.
Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley was the first to express concern, then according to Politico this week, the White House began losing Democratic support. Former Democratic National Committee chairman and Virginia Senate candidate Tim Kaine; the Democratic senator from Pennsylvania, Bob Casey; House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson; Democratic Rep. Daniel Lipinski of Illinois; and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia all came out against the ruling. (Manchin, in fact, called the HHS ruling "un-American.") The outrage also widened beyond just Catholics: more and more religious leaders were signing on—in op-ed pages, on morning television shows, not to mention all the Shabbat and Christian services and Sunday masses this weekend. The White House knew it was losing ground quickly and they're hoping this will stop the outrage.
The ruling to force universal "access to preventive care" was a deliberate decision by the White House, months in the making, and this so-called "accommodation" reinforces the administration's commitment to its prochoice agenda. It does nothing to accommodate people of good faith who disagree with the president; instead he accuses those who object to his policy of trying to create a "political football." The reason this struck such a chord with so many is not because it was about birth control pills or even access to care. This galvanized people across the board because it threatened religious freedom for all denominations, it was an issue of conscience that cut across party lines, and it touched the lives of everyone who is involved with good church-run community organizations that I believe still face bankruptcy for their beliefs. This isn't over yet.
- Vote: Does Obama's Contraceptive Compromise Go Far Enough?
- See a collection of political cartoons on the Catholic contraception controversy.
- Read the U.S. News debate: Should Catholic and Other Religious Institutions Have to Cover Birth Control?