Rep. Kathy Hochul expected to get some questions on the economy and on gas prices when she met with constituents in New York’s 26th Congressional district last night. Instead, the freshman Democrat got booed by a crowded room over her support for the HHS mandate on contraception and abortifacients, and spent the evening getting an earful from angry voters:
When Hochul spoke in support of the President, the crowd booed. Many in the audience carried signs, including one that read: “Kathy why have you betrayed our Catholic institutions?” One woman in the crowd told Hochul: “This President has lied to us repeatedly when he proclaims support for conscience protection in his infamous speech at Notre Dame as well as in the executive order he signed following passage of the health care law. He is not worthy of your support in this matter.” Another man shouted “It’s an insult to the Catholics in this country to even listen to that gibberish. It is an absolute insult and Catholics deserve better. We were taking care of this country’s sick long before the government got involved in it.”
Pastor Leon Bienart of Our Lady of Pompeii Church also asked Hochul if the President or Congress consulted with Catholic bishops before they issued the policy. Hochul replied that it was a good question and she would try to get an answer. The Congresswoman also replied this way to the questions and criticism “We’re not gonna agree on this one. I’m gonna tell you that I will stand for our religious freedoms. But I don’t see a conflict here. Now that there’s been an accommodation that says religious institutions do not have to provide these services. So we’re just going to have to disagree on that.”
The meeting was heavily publicized on Catholic radio and many Catholic organizations encouraged people to attend and discuss the contraception issue. It was also brought up specifically by Father Beinart during his Mass on February 5th when he criticized President Obama and Congresswoman Hochul.
A week ago or so, Duane Patterson and I got into a debate on my show over the impact of the HHS mandate on Catholic voters. Duane worried that Barack Obama had split Catholic voters, but I reminded Duane that the Catholic vote is always split, and usually tilts slightly towards Democrats. Obama won the Catholic vote by nine points in 2008. What Obama did was unify Catholics — and not just Catholics, either — in opposition to his arrogance. Bishops and priests are organizing opposition to this mandate, and this is just one small measure of the result.
Hochul, it should be remembered, is only in office because of Chris Lee’s virtual tomcatting on Internet dating sites. He resigned when the scandal broke, and Hochul won the special election in an R+6 district one year ago. It was one of the few rays of sunshine for Democrats midway through Obama’s term, but her chances of winning again seem to be dimming substantially in NY-26. This is a small measure of the political miscalculation made by Obama and his administration on the mandate, and perhaps a signal to opponents of the mandate in other districts to follow suit.
Update: This claim from Hochul is categorically false:
“We’re not gonna agree on this one. I’m gonna tell you that I will stand for our religious freedoms. But I don’t see a conflict here. Now that there’s been an accommodation that says religious institutions do not have to provide these services. So we’re just going to have to disagree on that.”
They still have to provide insurance to their employees that includes free contraception and abortifacients. Who pays for the insurance? The religious organizations that get forced to facilitate those transactions, since they can no longer opt out of offering the insurance and must pay a large part of the premiums — and in some cases, the religious organizations self-insure, which means the money comes directly out of their pockets rather than indirectly. Either way, they most certainly still do have to “provide these services.” Hochul either is woefully misinformed or willfully lying to her constituents.