As a part of his historic national health care plan, President Barack Obama proposed a policy requiring all employers to offer insurance plans that pay for contraceptives to their employees. The policy is based on the fact that many doctors often prescribe contraceptives as a way to prevent ovarian cancer and other cancers, as well as treat a variety of other ailments.
“We know that the overall cost of healthcare is lower when women have access to contraceptive services,” said the president. “Nearly 99% of all women have relied on contraceptives at some point in their lives. Yet more than half of the women between the ages of 18 and 34 have struggled to afford it.” This is the main reason why the Obama Administration decided to heed the advice of the nation’s leading medical experts and make sure that free preventive healthcare includes free contraceptives.
Knowing that he was treading difficult terrain, President Obama conferred with several religious organizations, including various Catholic officials, to come up with what the president called “an equable solution that protects religious liberty and insures that every women has access to the care that she needs.” Unfortunately the process took longer than the president expected, so he instructed the Dept. of Health and Human Services to speed up the process by reaching a compromise. Under the new policy, the insurance companies have to offer free contraceptives to employees who work for religious charities that don’t offer such services. This means that the religious organization won’t have to pay for a service that violates its core beliefs.
With this new policy, Republicans saw an opportunity to gain political traction with the evangelicals and went on the offensive. Although former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney allowed a similar policy for his state, he called Obama’s contraceptive policy “an assault on religious freedom.” Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum called the policy “a grievous moral wrong.” Newt Gingrich offered criticism that was even further to the right than the rest of his GOP cohorts. Gingrich called the compromise “a clever maneuver that may actually be worse, not better” than the original policy.
Ironically, the Catholic Church and the GOP's opposition to Obama’s contraceptive policy actually runs counter to the majority of Catholics, who, polls show, actually approve of Obama’s plan. The same is true of many faith-based organizations and women's groups, such as Catholic United and Planned Parenthood. So why is the GOP continuing with this tirade? It’s simple. By using catchphrases like “assault on religious freedom” and “grievous moral wrong,” the GOP opposition appeals to fringe-base elements like the Birthers and Tea Party, who wrongly believe that President Obama (a Christian and Constitutional scholar) is a foreign-born Muslim socialist. Nothing could be further from the truth and the Republicans know it. The fact that some members of the GOP would allow the perpetuation of outright false information in order to win an election speaks volumes loud enough to convince me to never vote Republican.
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