Republicans stepped up their campaign Thursday against the Obama administration’s controversial contraception rule, using the pulpit of the premier conservative conference in Washington to assail the policy as an unconstitutional “attack on religious freedom.”
The sustained GOP criticism, including a letter of opposition Thursday from three state attorneys general, came as key Democrats continued to peel away from the president on the issue or at least call for compromise. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the party’s 2004 presidential nominee, told Fox News on Thursday that the policy should be adjusted to include a conscience clause.
“I think it can be implemented effectively in a way that protects women’s access but at the same time protects people’s rights and conscience,” Kerry said. “I think it’s an unnecessary debate.”
Vice President Biden, who is Catholic, also reportedly said Thursday he’s “determined to see that this gets worked out.”
At the Conservative Political Action Conference, a string of high-powered Republican speakers singled out the policy, which requires religious schools and hospitals to provide contraceptive coverage to employees.
“This isn’t even a social issue. This is a constitutional issue,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said onstage. “What (the Constitution) says is that the federal government does not have the power to force religious organizations to pay for things that that organization thinks is wrong.”
House Speaker John Boehner, who a day earlier took to the House floor to vow to repeal the policy unless the Obama administration backs off, said Thursday that a “fundamental American value” is at stake. He said at CPAC that lawmakers would debate the issue, adding: “One thing is for certain — this attack on religious freedom cannot and will not stand.”
The President is even losing members of his own party over this one:
At least nine Democratic members of Congress have spoken out against the policy or suggested it should be changed. Among them, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said in a newspaper interview he has told the White House he opposes the policy.
President Obama: A uniter! But not in the way he claimed to want to be.
Janet Daley, writing for the Telegraph, sees this as another disturbing example of the Europization of America:
So why has the President chosen this high-risk path? The White House spokesman says simply that the administration is committed to giving women access to these services “no matter where they work”. In other words, this is an issue of equality: everyone must have the same access to identical provision even if they (knowingly) work for an employer who is opposed in principle to such provision. This is a classic case of government-backed equality vs individual freedom of conscience, of a kind with which we are very familiar in Britain. It is, in fact, a direct consequence of the uniformity which any national healthcare plan must involve.
But it is also a departure from the traditional American view (enshrined in the Constitution) that the government shall not interfere in the people’s right to religious assembly and practice. What the Obama White House has effectively decided is that religion can not be allowed to interfere with the secular values which government has decreed – such as the right to equality in contraception services. Religion itself is being firmly put in its box. If the state decides that contraception must be available to all, then no church or theological text will be allowed to stand in the way. Once again, the US is following where Europe leads: to a future in which all values will be determined and enforced by the state.
As noted earlier, the push back against against this has been pretty significant and wide-ranging. It will be interesting to see how the administration tries to play the middle, especially during an election year. Who would he rather alienate the least – Catholics or “feminist” pro-aborts? That is how the administration views this issue, not whether it is right or wrong from a Constitutional standpoint, which should have been their first and foremost concern.
In an ideal world where leaders in positions of power actually care about the Constitution, anyway …