“It was no secret inside the West Wing that Bill Daley, a Catholic with deep connections to the church hierarchy, vehemently opposed the administration’s proposal to require church-run hospitals and universities to give their employees free contraception.
“But it was the way he pushed his case that aggravated some women on President Barack Obama’s senior staff, according to current and former administration officials. In early November, without consulting them, Daley set up a four-man Oval Office meeting for himself, Obama, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Vice President Joe Biden, who both shared the view that the policy would sink the president with Catholic voters.
“Obama, a person close to him tells POLITICO, hadn’t made any final decision, hadn’t fully analyzed the dueling arguments, hadn’t expressed a strong policy preference, and felt ‘mildly uncomfortable’ being put on the spot.”
“The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have issued the following statement:…
“These changes require careful moral analysis, and moreover, appear subject to some measure of change. But we note at the outset that the lack of clear protection for key stakeholders—for self-insured religious employers; for religious and secular for-profit employers; for secular non-profit employers; for religious insurers; and for individuals—is unacceptable and must be corrected. And in the case where the employee and insurer agree to add the objectionable coverage, that coverage is still provided as a part of the objecting employer’s plan, financed in the same way as the rest of the coverage offered by the objecting employer. This, too, raises serious moral concerns.
“We just received information about this proposal for the first time this morning; we were not consulted in advance. Some information we have is in writing and some is oral. We will, of course, continue to press for the greatest conscience protection we can secure from the Executive Branch. But stepping away from the particulars, we note that today’s proposal continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions. In a nation dedicated to religious liberty as its first and founding principle, we should not be limited to negotiating within these parameters. The only complete solution to this religious liberty problem is for HHS to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services.
“We will therefore continue—with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency—our efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government.”
“Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) says Obama’s revised version of an ObamaCare mandate still violates the Constitution:
“‘This ObamaCare rule still tramples on Americans’ First Amendment right to freedom of religion. It’s a fig leaf, not a compromise. Whether they are affiliated with a church or not, employers will still be forced to pay an insurance company for coverage that includes abortion-inducing drugs.’…
“Amy Ridenour, chairman of the National Center for Public Policy Research, agrees:
“‘Isn’t the compromise just a big spin and an insult to churches, because it implies that they just want an ‘out’ to permit them to pretend that they aren’t providing coverage they believe is immoral?'”
“‘Quite frankly, he’s adding insult to injury,’ Donahue said. ‘He must think the Catholics are stupid.’…
“Donohue said the new Obama stance contains a ‘devious element,’ in that it seeks to divide what he calls “a rather loosely formed and tenuous coalition of liberal Catholics joining with conservative Catholics on this issue in opposing Obamacare. This is designed to peel off the liberal opposition in the Catholic community, bring them back into the fold,’ he said…
“Said Donohue: ‘We’re not going to forget this in November.'”
“This is, of course, a dodge — a quite clever and positive one. Everyone gets to say that the religious institutions aren’t ‘paying for’ contraception. But if covering contraception ends up costing them money, you can be sure those costs will be passed along, as costs always are, to customers.
“The beauty of this dodge is that it is entirely possible, even likely, that adding the coverage will not raise rates. Easier, cheaper access to contraception means fewer pregnancies. Pregnancies — and the resulting babies — cost insurers far more than birth control pills. For example, according to the Guttmacher Institute, the federal government reported no increase in costs after Congress required coverage of contraceptives for federal employees in 1998. Think of it as immaculate contraceptive coverage.”
“The direct costs of providing contraception as part of a health insurance plan are very low and do not add more than approximately 0.5% to the premium costs per adult enrollee. Studies from three actuarial firms, Buck Consultants, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and the Actuarial Research Corporation (ARC) have estimated the direct costs of providing contraception coverage..
“However, as indicated by the empirical evidence described above, these direct estimated costs overstate the total premium cost of providing contraceptive coverage. When medical costs associated with unintended pregnancies are taken into account, including costs of prenatal care, pregnancy complications, and deliveries, the net effect on premiums is close to zero. One study author concluded, ‘The message is simple: regardless of payment mechanism or contraceptive method, contraception saves money.’
“When indirect costs such as time away from work and productivity loss are considered, they further reduce the total cost to an employer.”
“‘The boundaries of religious freedom and identity are being trespassed,’ said Hunter, who still writes weekly devotions for Obama and visited the Oval Office last week; he said he keeps his spiritual guidance separate from any policy recommendations he funnels to the president. ‘I do think this will have political repercussions in the religious community,’ Hunter added. ‘This has the potential to be a breaking point.’…
“The relationship of religion and politics could influence the outcome of the 2012 election in battleground states with large Catholic communities, including Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, Green added. ‘The real problem for the Obama administration would be if the [birth-control] issue moved some of those less religious Catholics,’ Green said. “The issue might also move the regular Mass-attending Catholics to vote even more Republican.’…
“[I]f the GOP succeeds in wrapping the issue in the mantle of religious liberty, Obama will struggle to rebuild the diverse coalition that put him in the White House.”
“‘And it’s not just about the women,’ Pelosi said. ‘It’s about their children and the health of their families as they make serious decisions and use contraception to determine, as I said, the size and timing of their families. That will be a debate that we welcome.’
“‘It’s a sad one,’ she concluded. ‘We shouldn’t have to be to a place where people are saying—when the overwhelming practice is going in favor of women’s health—‘we want to pull that back.’ And use the excuse of religious freedom, which, of course, this is not.'”
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