Rumors have been swirling all day that the Obama administration may be poised to cave to mounting conservative pressure and offer religious colleges and medical centers an exemption from the Affordable Care Act provision that would require their employee and student health plans to fully cover the cost of birth control. The administration itself swears this is not the case. Conservatives are super pissed. Another day in paradise.
According to the New York Times, despite insistance from the Obama administration that they're firmly committed to letting science rather than mysticism drive policy, Obama advisor David Axelrod says that they'll likely find a way to compromise with religious groups, still hopping mad that they'll have to pay for birth control for female employees.
According to what White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters this morning, any rumors that the President is going to listen to the screeching masses are false.
And I think that the principle here is that churches and houses of worship, it's an issue of hiring people of life faith, versus these large institutions, like universities and hospitals, where, whether you're a nurse or a teacher, a professor, a student, a janitor, somebody in administration, you are going to have folks of all faiths who work for those large institutions, and therefore the president believes that they ought to be able to have access - those women ought to be able to have access to the same contraceptive services that other women will have access to.
Further, Obama has made its push for free choice for all women central to his reelection strategy. The campaign's even soliciting "what birth control means to me" stories via its website.
Thank tiny baby Jesus, the President isn't planning on backing down on this, but the debate shouldn't even be happening in the first place.
First, the plan is popular— people seem to like the idea of accessible birth control for all women who are interested in taking it, and about 98% of women will use birth control at some point in their lives. According to a recent USA Today poll, 58% of Catholics support requiring employers to cover the cost of birth control for their employees. A full 61% of religiously unaffiliated Americans think covering birth control should be required, and 62% of women agree.
Second, the people who don't support required birth control coverage in employee health plans are men— only 47% of them are in favor of government-mandated harlot hard candy availability— and religious evangelicals, 38% of whom support the requirement.
Third, it's not really that much of a sweeping nationwide change; as David Axelrod pointed out, 28 states already require that employers include contraceptive coverage in their employee health plans.
Finally, the only "religious freedom" that's being violated here is the freedom for religions to simultaneously be really bad at convincing their female followers that birth control is evil and still expect their employees to have to pay more than everyone else for contraception. Obviously, women on religious hospital or university plans are free to not use birth control, if their faith is that important to them.
Barack Obama pandering to men and Evangelicals makes about as much sense as taking salsa dancing lessons from Mitt Romney. The President isn't stupid, and he's acutely aware that conservative men and evangelical Christians are never going to vote for him, because these are the people wearing Che Obama shirts and carrying signs that claim the President is a Kenyan Hitler Socialist Antichrist. Bishops are never going to support a pro-choice President, either.
We can all stop freaking out. At least, for the next 30 seconds, until the next round of women's health fuckery.