Republican lawmakers’ manufactured outrage over contraception coverage would be easier to believe if so many GOP officials weren’t already on record agreeing with the Obama administration.
The Obama measure closely resembles state laws providing equity in insurance coverage for contraception in six states and actually offers far more conscience protections than previous Congressional efforts to expand women’s access to birth control.
For instance, a 2001 bill co-sponsored by Republicans Sens. Olympia Snowe (ME), Susan Collins (ME), Lincoln Chafee (RI), Gordon Smith (OR), John Warner (VA), Arlen Specter (PA) – S. 104 – sought to establish parity for contraceptive prescriptions within the context of coverage already guaranteed by insurance plans, but offered no opt-out clause for religious groups who opposed contraception.
At the time, Snowe made the case that this was a “simple” matter of fairness. To accommodate the concerns of religious groups, she endorsed a “conscience clause,” which as Volsky noted, “is very similar to the conscience protections included in Obama’s regulation.”
By 2012 standards, these Republican senators in 2001 were waging a war on religion, and launching an offensive assault on the First Amendment.
Perhaps now would be a good time to pause and note that neither Obama’s nor the Republican moderates’ position is extreme in the slightest. Current law requires insurers to cover preventive care, which the administration believes should include contraception. Churches and other houses of worship are exempt from the requirement.
So why pretend this is some kind of outrageous assault on religious liberty – three weeks after the White House’s announcement? Because the right, desperate to find something new to complain about, wants to play a foolish political game . They’ve apparently settled on contraception, which, incidentally, most Americans agree with Obama about.
Pro-choice Republicans are urging their party not to engage in a coordinated fight against contraception, but for now, this good advice is being ignored.