White House: Contraception insurance mandate is not up for debate

posted at 6:35 pm on February 2, 2012 by Tina Korbe

White House press secretary Jay Carney made no bones about it in today’s press conference: The administration’s decision to require religiously-affiliated employers to provide their employees with insurance coverage that covers contraception — even if the employers oppose contraceptives on religious grounds — is final.

The White House said Thursday it has no plans to reverse course on its decision to require that all employers cover contraception in their insurance plans, despite a wave of criticism from Republicans and Catholic leaders.

After a bruising week for health officials on the issue, the White House arranged a conference call with reporters to address what it called “confusion” over the policy. It also put up a blog post by Cecilia Munoz, director of the House Domestic Policy Council, pointing out that “no individual health care provider will be forced to prescribe contraception” and “no individual will be forced to buy or use contraception.”

And White House press secretary Jay Carney said at Thursday’s afternoon briefing that there was “not a debate” over reversing the decision. “The decision has been made, and it was made after careful consideration,” he said.

You can bet this wouldn’t be so cut-and-dried if the political calculus didn’t work out so perfectly in Barack Obama’s favor. The president thinks he can afford to thumb his nose not only at Catholic voters but at any voters concerned by the president’s perpetual power grabs because women and young voters will make up for their loss.

But anybody who opposes Obamacare ought to oppose this requirement on all of the same grounds. We don’t even have to talk about the religious liberty angle of this. It will, for example, bump insurance prices even higher. Why should folks who have no need of contraception whatsoever — gay couples, for example — have to pay for coverage that includes it? As Ed has pointed out, contraception is elective. That fact alone ought to rule it out as a required coverage area.

But add to that the religious liberty element and it becomes increasingly clear that this is not about contraception. The president cares far less about whether women have access to the pill than he does about whether (a) they vote for him and (b) he’s able to define what constitutes a religious institution. Unfortunately for the president, “women and young voters” are far less attached to this provision — especially given that contraception is already cheaply available — than Catholics and others are to their liberty.  This issue isn’t going away for the president; it too clearly reveals his indifference to those he thinks he doesn’t need.


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