Republican divisions emerge on contraception

Updated
 
Snowe, Collins break ranks on contraception coverage.
Snowe, Collins break ranks on contraception coverage.
Associated Press

Last week, President Obama unveiled a compromise on contraception coverage at least in part because he’d been pushed into making a change. The White House wasn’t especially concerned about criticisms from the right, but it was Democratic discomfort with the administration’s policy that led Obama to look for an alternative.

In the wake of Friday’s announcement that accommodates religiously-affiliated employers, Dems are on the same page – and now it’s Republicans who are divided.

The problem is with the GOP’s proposed response to Obama’s policy. Congressional Republicans, led by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), have decided the best way to reject the White House compromise is to go after access to contraception itself.

Indeed, the new GOP policy aims to allow all private-sector employers to deny any health services that businesses might find morally objectionable. Do you work for a grocery store owner who opposes contraception? You’re out of luck. How about an accounting firm that doesn’t like HIV tests? Too bad. Are you an employee at a factory that finds cervical cancer screenings offensive? Good luck to you.

As Igor Volsky reported, and as was discussed on the show last night, this is a bridge too far for some Republicans: Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine have endorsed the White House policy, not their party’s extreme response.

What about other alleged GOP moderates like Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)? Greg Sargent connected with Brown’s office yesterday and learned the senator opposes the White House compromise and backs his party’s countermeasure.

Scott Brown apparently believes the way to win a close race in Massachusetts in the 21st century is to block access to contraception and other forms of preventive care – even when his more centrist GOP colleagues are siding with the Democratic president.

It’s not at all clear that Republicans have thought this through. Polls show strong support from the American mainstream not only for contraception but also for Obama’s coverage policy, suggesting this is an election-year culture war fight the GOP is likely to lose. The fact that Republicans are already divided on the issue only reinforces doubts about the wisdom of the party’s strategy.

It’s unlikely to happen, but the smart move would be for Republicans to quietly shift their attention elsewhere. If Democrats are lucky, the GOP will ignore this and continue its war on contraception.

Republican divisions emerge on contraception

Updated