First, some facts about the new health care regulation about contraception:
- 98% of sexually active Catholic women have used birth control.
- The new federal regulations mandate that employers who provide health coverage for their employees must cover contraception.
- All churches are exempt from this mandate. Yes, that’s right. No church must provide contraception to its employees.
- Church-owned businesses such as hospitals or universities are not exempt. If the business provides a service that is not religious, then it is not exempt.
- No person will ever be forced to take contraception because of this mandate. If a woman doesn’t wish to take contraception, she doesn’t have to take contraception.
- No religious hospital or doctor will ever be forced to prescribe contraception because of this mandate.
- DePaul, the largest Catholic university in the United States, already provides contraception coverage to its employees.
- The State of Georgia requires all employers to cover contraception, including Catholic hospitals Saint Joseph’s in Atlanta and Saint Mary’s in Athens.
- Mitt Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, upheld and enforced a law that mandated Catholic hospitals to provide emergency contraception.
- Republican lawmakers in more than a dozen states have introduced laws to ban Sharia Law, an assertion from the state of legal dominion over religious customs and practices of a religion.
- The Supreme Court has already ruled that conscience does not trump the law in Employment Division v. Smith. Antonin Scalia wrote the opinion.
- The best way to prevent abortions is to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
Any discussion of the recent controversy over the contraception mandate should recognize all of those facts, and if any of those facts make your particular argument weaker, then that says more about your argument than the mandate.
It is perfectly valid to believe that the government should not impose this mandate, but calling this rather modest mandate an “unprecedented attack on religious liberties” is beyond ridiculous. Newt Gingrich is now saying that it is “the most outrageous assault on religious freedom in American history.” Seriously, he said that.
The conventional wisdom in Washington seems to be that the Obama administration has blundered again, picking a fight with people who care strongly about religious freedom.
The debate is stealing attention from where Obama wants it, on the improving economy, and could alienate moderate voters.
I hope it surprises absolutely no one that I completely disagree with the conventional wisdom here. Rachel Maddow talked about this with Chris Hayes last night on her show. That video provides the best analysis of this issue that I have seen so far.
If the Republicans want to make the issue of contraception coverage into a campaign issue (and clearly Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich really really do) then I am frankly delighted.