During his Denver campaign event with Sandra Fluke on Wednesday, the president insisted that a compromise had been reached on the matter of the HHS contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing-drug mandate. That’s, of course, not true. But you wouldn’t know that from the vast majority of the press coverage about both the event and Mitt Romney’s subsequent religious-freedom ad.
“President Obama used his health-care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith,” Romney claims in the “Be Not Afraid” ad. Much of the news coverage and analysis takes the president at his word that this is not the case. But the administration’s so-called accommodation (as if religious liberty is something we merely accommodate in the United States) wasn’t acceptable even to the generally left-leaning Catholic Health Association.
So thank you, Rachel Zoll, of the Associated Press. She’s the rare reporter to get the facts straight, writing:
Obama’s health care overhaul split religious groups, with Catholic bishops and conservative Protestants strongly opposed to provisions that permitted women to buy insurance coverage for abortion, provided they used their own money. But liberal Protestant denominations supported the law, as did many religious orders of Catholic nuns, and the trade group representing Catholic hospitals. [Many religious orders of Catholic nuns didn't, I should point out.]
Religious objections arose again when the administration ruled that most employers, including faith-affiliated hospitals and nonprofits — but not churches — will have to provide health insurance that includes birth control as a preventive service covered free of charge. The bishops have been fiercely lobbying against the rule. Obama promised to change the requirement so that insurance companies and not faith-affiliated employers would pay for the coverage. But details have not been worked out. And not only the bishops, but Catholic hospitals and some other religious leaders generally supportive of Obama’s policies are saying the compromise appears to be unworkable.
The White House website, by the way, still claims that the Catholic Health Association supports the White House line. Google the Catholic Health Association and you’ll find out otherwise, right on its website. On June 15, Sister Carol Keehan, CHA president, called the accommodation “unduly cumbersome.”