Well, we had one Friday, in regard to the Department of Health and Human Services’ abortion-inducing drug, sterilization, and contraception mandate that goes into effect for some come August 1. But a Politico report today claims that Republicans have backed off the fight: “Remember last spring, when Republicans were on a mission to repeal the rule requiring employers to cover birth control? When Speaker John Boehner said on the House floor that “[t]his attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country must not stand and will not stand”? Well, with the rule set to kick in Wednesday for most employers, the fiery talk of repealing this part of Obamacare has for the most part faded from the Hill.”
Transitioning to reporting on Judge Kane’s Friday ruling for the Newland family in Denver, “Morning Score” begins: “While Republicans have largely toned down their opposition . . . ”
But, also today, the New York Times publishes another “Republicans vs. Women” editorial, noting that the current Labor, HHS, and Education appropriations bill includes conscience-protecting language (which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has praised) consistent with the legislation Nebraska congressman Jeff Fortenberry introduced last spring. The Fortenberry bill has not had a freestanding vote in the House since it went down in the Senate after the media debacle over House Oversight hearings on the religious-freedom violations inherent in the mandate’s implementation, but I have seen few signs of surrender on the Hill or elsewhere.
The fight for religious liberty continues. The speaker of the House and the Republican running for president both made statements about the HHS mandate on Friday. Members’ talking about the issue is not a one-day perfunctory event – it’s been a consistent education campaign for some. And the threat facing businesses and religious service organizations, among others, continues, as a whole new definition of religious liberty will be in effect come Wednesday.
The contrast between Politico (They’ve given up doing anything of substance to hurt women or protect their precious freedom) and the New York Times (Look at them! They still are at war against women!) is a reminder that it’s hard to win with one house of Congress and a president who is determined to define religious liberty and health care as he believes is in your best interest, as I wrote here on Friday.
And it’s more than that, more than politics. There are a whole host of contributing factors that got us to this point in history. Teachers not teaching. People not being who we say we are. Revolutionary forces in our culture and our lives. Do people even know what religious freedom is, anyway?
A freestanding vote in the House isn’t going to fix everything. And it may not fix anything, frankly, at this point in history. If we make some changes in November, we can have the political, national moment that we need — to restore liberty and to pass health-care reform that is not so hostile to individual conscience and, perversely, even life itself.