Be Not Afraid to Oppose the HHS Mandate

This morning when I went to the New York Times website, the first thing I saw was the still-lingering hot-story headline from the weekend in the “What’s Popular Now” box: “Centrist Women Tell of Disenchantment With Republicans.”

As Shannen and Ramesh have already noted, the Times and their readers ought to get with the times. And its own poll.

It’s front-page piece on the poll on the president’s favorability drop does note:

In recent weeks, there has been much debate over the government’s role in guaranteeing insurance coverage for contraception, including for those who work for religious organizations. The poll found that women were split as to whether health insurance plans should cover the costs of birth control and whether employers with religious objections should be able to opt out.

What’s that “split” all about? Scroll down to question 73 in the Times poll: “Do you think health insurance plans for all employees should have to cover the full cost of birth control for their female employees, or should employers be allowed to opt out of covering that based on religious or moral objections?” 51 percent answered “Allowed to opt out.”

And when asked, “What about for religiously affiliated employers, such as a hospital or university? Do you think their health insurance plans for all employees should have to cover the full cost of birth control for their female employees, or should they be allowed to opt out of covering that based on religious or moral objections?” 57 percent responded “Allowed to opt out.”

That is most definitely news.

Americans, according to the New York Times’s own polling, support the positon of the Catholic bishops on the HHS mandate. The margin in the Times poll is 57 to 36 opposing the mandate for religious-affiliated employers — Catholic schools and hospitals — and 51 to 40 for any employer with a religious or moral objection.

Or as a CBS headline on the poll put it: “Poll: Most say employers should be allowed not to cover contraception.”

In other words: Americans support religious liberty. Americans are smarter than the White House counted on.

The White House is counting on Karen Tumulty’s Washington Post piece this weekend, “Recent debate over contraception comes as GOP loses gains among women,” being exactly how this debate plays out. Already we’ve seen a Republican woman who voted for the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act on March 1 express her regret for her vote, in the wake of strategic backlash from the liberal-feminist-sisterhood chief allies of the president. But senators who voted to protect conscience rights — to preserve them exactly as they existed on January 19 of this year — should be proud of their votes. And members of the House should confidently move forward in supporting Jeff Fortenberry’s version of the bill in the House. It’s the right thing to do, and it is not a losing political issue, either.  

By 21-Point Margin, Americans Oppose Birth Control Mandate.”  

The New York Times/CBS poll does not appear to be an outlier. As John McCormack pointed out yesterday:

 The Post/ABC poll asked Americans, “Do you think health insurance companies should or should not be required to cover the full cost of birth control for women?” It found that 61 percent of Americans think insurance companies should be required to pay for it. But if “the insurance is provided through a religiously affiliated employer that objects to birth control, however, support for this requirement drops to 49 percent (52 percent of women, 45 percent of men).” (It’s worth noting that polls on this issue have varied significantly depending on how the question is asked. When a poll specifies that the “federal government” is the entity requiring employers to pay for birth-control coverage, support for the mandate in general is evenly split.)  

Proponents of the HHS mandate would like everyone to believe that high gas prices explain all the drop in support for Obama. But considering the president has taken a lead in defense of his coercive mandate, it’s mistaken to pretend his war on religious liberty isn’t part of his public-opinion wounds. 

Do not get distracted by the “violently anti-women” “women’s health” rallying cries. Americans support religious liberty. And that is what the HHS-mandate debate is about. 

Kathryn Jean Lopez — Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and an editor-at-large of National Review. Sign up for her weekly NRI newsletter here. This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.

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