Opposition to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ order that health-care providers affiliated with churches or religions–meaning mostly Catholic hospitals–provide birth control or abortion services that conflict with their religious beliefs has officially gone bipartisan.
First, as might be expected, House Speaker John Boehner, who is himself Catholic, spoke out about the order today:
“I think this mandate violates our Constitution,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday. “I think it violates the rights of these religious organizations. And I would hope that the administration would back up and take another look at this.”
He’s right, of course, this does violate the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment, and you don’t need to be a legal scholar to see that. They’re being ordered by the federal government to do something that is in direct opposition to their religious beliefs, and that’s a restriction on their free exercise of their religion.
What’s interesting, however, is that a Democratic group is also speaking out against Sebelius’ order:
Also joining in disapproval was a group that includes Democratic lawmakers who helped engineer final passage of the health care law. The group, Democrats for Life of America, represents anti-abortion lawmakers who provided the margin of victory in Congress.
“Forcing religious institutions to provide insurance coverage for services that are directly in opposition to their moral beliefs is very clearly wrong,” said Kristen Day, its executive director.
For whatever reason (feel free to use your imaginations here), DFLA hasn’t yet posted this opposition on their website, but an item from November on their front page is also of interest (bold in original):
The PPACA ncluded a provision to mandate that insurance plans include free contraception coverage. The law also proposed to continue to allow those employers who oppose those types of birth control that cause abortions of new embryos, to continue to provide insurance to their employees, but would be exempt form providing contraception coverage. This was part of the agreement reached between pro-life Democrats and the Obama administration.
“I would have never voted for the final version of the bill if I expected the Obama Administration to force Catholic hospitals and Catholic colleges and universities to pay for contraception,” said former Pennsylvania Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper. “We worked hard to prevent abortion funding in health care and to include clear conscience protections for those with moral objections to abortion and contraceptive devices that cause abortion. I trust that the President will honor the commitment he made to those of us who supported final passage.”
Women’s groups scored a tremendous victory with a contraception mandate that requires all health insurance companies to provide free birth control. Some groups, such as Emily’s List and NARAL, are attempting to push the mandate even further by forcing those who oppose contraception for moral reasons to include free birth control in their plans as well. They are also using scare tactics to convince their supporters that they are in jeopardy of losing coverage for birth control.
“The campaign by Emily’s list to scare women into thinking that they will no longer have access to birth control is as dishonest as the Republican campaign to convince voters that the PPACA funds abortion,” said Day. “The PPACA does not fund abortion and not one woman will lose access to birth control under the new law. In fact, women will now receive free birth control under that law.”
Given that so far the President hasn’t himself spoken about this as far as I can find (if I’m wrong, please post in the comments and I’ll add an update), it seems that he’s not yet honoring the commitment that Congresswoman Dahlkemper spoke about. Whether or not he eventually does will depend largely on how loudly those in his own party push him on this issue.
(Cross-posted at PJ Tatler)