The Catholic community may have another bone to pick with the Obama administration. After the Department of Health and Human Service's adoption of a mandate requiring all insurers to cover birth control pills without copays or additional fees, a group of academics and pro-life Democrats have joined forces to petition for an expansion of the mandate's "conscience clause." The clause exempts religious employers, but as of now does not include Catholic universities and hospitals.
This prompted academic figures from a number of universities as well as former Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA), Democrats for Life Director Kristen Day, and Simone Campbell, Executive Director of the Catholic "social justice" lobby NETWORK, to sign a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting an amendment to the exemption.
As it stands, the exemption covers religious employers who meet four criteria: (1) have the inculcation of religious values as their purpose; (2) primarily employ persons who share their religious tenets; (3) primarily serve persons who share their religious tenets; and (4) are non-profit organizations.
This, however, leaves out many religious schools and hospitals, meaning they will be required to include no-fee birth control in any insurance plans they offer. This is particularly troubling for members of the Catholic community, many of whom oppose the private use of birth control, let alone its public subsidy.
But despite the fact that Catholics vote for Democrats at least as often as they vote for Republicans, the left seems convinced that the push to expand the conscience clause is coming only from conservatives. In fact, the National Catholic Reporter called the aforementioned letter's list of signatories "a ‘Who's Who' of prominent Catholics whose politics tilt to the left," but the liberal activism group Campus Progress still said it was "several conservative groups" leading the campaign.
Campus Progress, an arm of the Center for American Progress, published an article on Tuesday entitled "No-Cost Birth Control Under Attack for Some Students," making the above statement and noting, among other things, that "contraception prevents abortions," and that having to pay for birth control would be "burdensome and deterring."
It doesn't take into account, though, a 2002 Guttenmacher Institute study that found that only 12 percent of women who were not using contraception and subsequently had abortions from 2000-2001 stated their lack of access to contraception to be their reason for nonuse (reported on The Spectator's website in July).
Campus Progress also reported that Advocates for Youth has launched a counter-initiative to persuade the HHS to leave the conscience clause as-is.
Finally, it quoted the Guttmacher Institute's Adam Sonfield as arguing in support of the birth control mandate, saying, "Insurance would basically become unworkable if everyone got a veto over what services any other member of the insurance pool could use."
This is quite an odd position coming from the side of the aisle that wholeheartedly supported public control of health care just a few months ago. Perhaps now that they realize that the public might have conservative ideas they would like to take back the "veto power" they were once so anxious to approve.