It’s about contraception, not religion

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Critics of the Obama administration’s policy on contraception coverage are eager, if not desperate, to put a faith-based spin on their condemnations. “This is not a women’s rights issue,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said yesterday. “This is a religious liberty issue.”

As a political matter, it’s easy to understand the motivation for the misleading spin. For one thing, modern birth control is popular, and Obama’s detractors don’t want to be seen as out of touch. For another, Republicans in particular see value in attacking the president over religion, as part of a larger culture war/electoral strategy.

Once in a while, though, we see a more candid and forthcoming perspective.

The White House is “all talk, no action” on moving toward compromise, said Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “There has been a lot of talk in the last couple days about compromise, but it sounds to us like a way to turn down the heat, to placate people without doing anything in particular,” Picarello said. “We’re not going to do anything until this is fixed.”

That means removing the provision from the health care law altogether, he said, not simply changing it for Catholic employers and their insurers. He cited the problem that would create for “good Catholic business people who can’t in good conscience cooperate with this.”

“If I quit this job and opened a Taco Bell, I’d be covered by the mandate,” Picarello said.

As Jamelle Bouie explained, “In other words, if a Catholic so much as opens a business – even if it’s secular – they should be allowed to discriminate and deny birth-control coverage to their female employees, in effect, charging them a fine for having two XX chromosomes.”

The White House is likely to find it difficult to negotiate with a position like this one. After all, it is, at its core, anti-birth control.

Also note, some of the political players have been just as candid.

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Rick Santorum argued several months ago, “One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country…. Many of the Christian faith have said, ‘Well, that’s okay, contraception is okay.’ It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

When critics say, “It’s not about contraception,” a whole lot of them mean, “It’s about contraception.”

It's about contraception, not religion

Updated