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Washington Week: Obamacare and the Birth-Control Mandate

February 12, 2012 - 6:00pm

The president is protecting religious freedom in America. He has told us so.

He said on June 4 of 2009 that: "freedom in America is indivisible from freedom to practice one's religion."

The problem is, the president seems to pick and choose which religious freedoms he wants America to protect.

In a speech on June 4, 2009, in Cairo, the president defended America's religious freedoms and went on to say: "That is why there is a mosque in every state in our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That's why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it."

On Feb. 10 the president said that all religious-affiliated charities, hospitals, universities in America will be required to provide insurance coverage for contraception, the morning-after pill, and other birth-control choices. This Obamacare mandate, of course, includes Catholic charities, hospitals and the like, notwithstanding the fact that birth control has been opposed by the Catholic Church dating back to the first centuries of Christianity.

Even though the administration modified the HHS regulation so that the plan doesn't require religious-affiliated employers to pay for the contraceptive coverage, they still must carry the insurance coverage and offer it, notwithstanding their opposition to the use of contraceptives. The New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan said this on the bishop's conference website: "Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience."

The White House and the mainstream media are trying to characterize or spin this new Obamacare regulation as one about birth control or women's health. The United States Senate Democratic women, led by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., took to the Senate floor on Thursday, Feb. 9,to say that the issue was all about women's health. Hum, do you think that the president or the media would characterize the protection of Muslim women to wear the hijab as all about wardrobe control or women's fashion?

In 2008, Obama won 54 percent of the total Catholic vote. Also, several of the so-called battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan are home to a very large number of Catholics. The speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, who is facing re-election in November, said publicly on the House floor on Wednesday, Feb. 8: If the president does not reverse the HHS Departments attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must.

Stay tuned to see if this womens issue gets further modified by the Obama administration or reversed by the Congress.

Elizabeth B. Letchworth is a retired, elected United States Senate secretary for the majority and minority. Currently she is a senior legislative adviser to Covington & Burling, LLC and is the founder of

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