Regardless of whether you are pro-choice, pro-life or define abortion as something separate to the morning after pill, the President’s recent attempt to coerce religious hospitals and universities into providing contraceptive “insurance coverage” is clearly ill-timed in terms of his reelection chances. In 2008 President Obama won the Catholic vote by 54% to 45% (much of this cross section is made up of Latino voters) yet now he is facing a backlash as priests and bishops across America are making regular sermons against this policy.
Many Republicans in Congress are jumping on this issue and decrying it as an impingement on the First Amendment right to religious liberty. Such accusations only add to the already loud conservative chorus on Obama’s apparent ‘War on Religion.’ In a country where many Americans still believe the president to be a Muslim (which is apparently a negative trait), this new addition to the culture war could well hurt the president’s chances of winning in November. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the serious and mostly non-political opponents to the plan, have listed a primary objection to the legislation; it includes a “nationwide mandate of insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacients.” The administration argues that this policy is the result of a compromise attempting to reach a balance between religious liberty (churches are exempt from the legislation) and providing women with quality affordable coverage for all their healthcare needs.
Fortunately for the president, most Catholics use contraceptives regularly and a recent poll shows that only 34% of Catholics oppose the new laws. Whether or not the Bishops will be able to persuade their congregations that such legislation is wrong, remains to be seen. Democrats (including Roman Catholics) have taken the view that the Church is overreacting and that the law does not interfere with the First Amendment. Regardless of how this argument continues, the decisions will ultimately be made by the courts (not just on this one section of the legislation) but on the entire Affordable Care Act, as the “individual mandate’s” (the government forcing employers and individuals to buy health insurance) constitutionality has been rejected by several Federal courts and is currently on its way to the Supreme Court. If rejected, the decision could have huge repercussions on Obama’s electability (the health care law is his primary legislative achievement). For now the Conference of Catholic Bishops will continue to grumble, and the culture wars will continue.
Image Credit- Andreas Tille