White House May Be Ready To Compromise On Contraceptive Coverage Regulations
There are some signs that the Obama Administration may be looking for a way out of the controversy it has found itself in with Catholics and other religious groups:
The White House may be open to compromising on a new rule that requires religious schools and hospitals to provide employees with access to free birth control, a senior strategist for President Obama said on Tuesday morning.
David Axelrod, who serves as a top adviser to Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program that the president would “look for a way” to address the vocal opposition from Catholic groups who say the rule forces them to violate their religious beliefs against contraception.
“We certainly don’t want to abridge anyone’s religious freedoms, so we’re going to look for a way to move forward that both provides women with the preventative care that they need and respects the prerogatives of religious institutions,” Mr. Axelrod said.
As I noted yesterday, this is a potential political landmine for Democrats so it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the Administration try to find a way to resolve this in a manner that tones down a controversy that, in the end, didn’t need to happen.
In the meantime, the negative reaction to the decision continues to mount, with Democratic pundit Kristen Powers being the latest to call the decision itself baffling:
I’m not Catholic. I support contraception. But this is madness.
The administration wants to remind us of their benevolence: they are giving institutions with religious objections a whole year to implement a government rule that violates the core tenets of their faith. Gee, thanks!
“In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told The Washington Post.
If religious institutions choose to ignore the mandate by dropping their insurance plans, they will face exorbitant fines under the Affordable Care Act that could force them to close their doors. Smith tells me that for one of the Becket Fund’s clients, the fine for the first year would be more than $300,000, and for the second year, more than $500,000.
One thing we can be sure of: the Catholic Church will shut down before it violates its faith. We saw that recently when Catholic adoption and foster-care services closed in Massachusetts and Illinois rather than comply with state mandates that they place children with gay parents. Who lost? Parentless children.
The administration has to know this, so why would it force the hand of Catholic institutions that have traditionally filled in the gaps in social services that the government failed to provide? The people who will suffer if they close their doors are the poor, refugees, the homeless, orphans, and the elderly.
Regardless of how the courts rule, the administration has planted its flag on the wrong side of history on this issue. The government’s disregard for the fundamental right of freedom of religion is chilling and should cause all Americans concern.
It’s reactions like these, and the fact that even people who normally support the Obama Administration are speaking out against this, that leads me to think that we’re going to see this regulation withdrawn and something else put in its place that gives Church-run organizations more latitude in opting out.