When Mitt Romney Declared War Against The Catholic Church

A mildly provocative title, no?

Brilliant tactician, deep thinker, faithful husband Newt Gingrich recently declared that the Obama administration, through the Health and Human Services mandate that those who receive federal monies must provide contraception, has “basically declared war on the Catholic Church.”

Republican front runner Mitt Romney concurred in a Washington Examiner editorial.

I quote the relevant sections:

On January 20, 2012, the Obama administration affirmed a rule that would force Roman Catholic hospitals, charities, and universities to purchase health insurance for their employees that includes coverage for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization, in violation of their religious principles. This is wrong.

My own view is clear. I stand with the Catholic Bishops and all religious organizations in their strenuous objection to this liberty- and conscience-stifling regulation.

Religious liberty is at the heart of the American experiment. As a nation founded in part by religious dissenters, we enshrined it as the first freedom in our Bill of Rights. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” is how the First Amendment begins.

But, now, more than two centuries after the drafting of the Bill of Rights, religious liberty is facing the most serious assault in generations. And the assault is coming from liberalism itself. In the process of implementing Obamacare, the Obama administration is pressing forward with a rule that tramples on religious freedom, taking particular aim at Roman Catholics. The Obama administration is forcing religious institutions to choose between violating their conscience or dropping health care coverage for their employees, effectively destroying their ability to carry on their work.

Liberals and conservatives have made common cause to defend the rights of religious minorities in the past. But somehow, today, when it comes to the agenda of the left-wing of the Democratic Party, those who brought us abortion on demand and who fight against the teaching of abstinence education in our children’s schools, their devotion to religious freedom goes out the window. They would force Catholics and others who have beliefs rooted in their faith to sacrifice the teachings of their faith to the mandate of federal bureaucrats.

It is a prerequisite to the preservation of our liberty that our government not dictate to religious institutions the principles by which they are to carry out their charitable and divine mission. Religious liberty and freedom of conscience flow from the common conviction that it is freedom not coercion that exalts the individual, just as it raises up the nation.

What the Obama administration has done is indefensible. But this is about even more than President Obama denying America’s Catholics their constitutionally protected rights. This is about the preservation of our freedom. We must come together to make sure that these egregious violations of our Constitution do not stand.

I think I’ve been just to Romney in quoting the relevant sections of his editorial. I do, however, find his passion on this issue somewhat puzzling. From the opposition research book put together on Romney by the McCain campaign in 2008 (the “Abortion” section, page 21):

As Governor, Romney Ordered Catholic Hospitals To Distribute Emergency Contraception

In December 2005, Romney “Abruptly Ordered His Administration To Reverse Course … And Require Catholic Hospitals To Provide Emergency Contraception To Rape Victims.” “Gov. Mitt Romney abruptly ordered his administration to reverse course yesterday and require Catholic hospitals to provide emergency contraception medication to rape victims. In a turnaround that foes derided as politically motivated, Romney directed his Department of Public Health to scrap rules that exempted the Catholic institutions from a new law governing the medicine.” (Kimberly Atkins, “Romney Flip Nixes Hospital Exception On Post-Rape Drug,” Boston Herald, 12/9/05)

  • Romney: “It’s the right thing for hospitals to provide information and access to emergency contraception to anyone who is a victim of rape.” (Dave Wedge, “Merry Christy,” Boston Herald, 12/11/05)
  • Romney: “My personal view in my heart of hearts is that people who are subject to rape should have the option of having emergency contraceptives or emergency contraceptive information …” (Kimberly Atkins, “Romney
    Flip Nixes Hospital Exception On Post-Rape Drug,” Boston Herald, 12/9/05)

Romney Had Initially Supported State Ruling Allowing Hospitals To Opt Out On Moral Grounds. “The decision overturns a ruling made public this week by the state Department of Public Health that privately run hospitals could opt out of the requirement if they objected on moral or religious grounds. Romney had initially supported that interpretation…” (Scott Helman, “Romney Says No Hospitals Are Exempt From Pill Law,” The Boston Globe, 12/9/05)

Boston Herald Called It “An Olympic-Caliber Double Flip-Flop.” “Flip, flop, flip. Yes, Gov. Mitt Romney has now executed an Olympic-caliber double flip-flop with a gold medal-performance twist-and-a-half on the issue of emergency contraception. … It’s no secret Mitt Romney would like to be president. But who would have thought he’d take John Kerry as his campaign role model?” (Editorial, “Politics On Display The Morning-After,” Boston Herald, 12/9/05)

A full AP article from the time is here, one of the few now outside a paywall:

Emergency contraception law upheld

Governor: Private hospitals not exempt
By Steve Leblanc / The Associated Press

Gov. Mitt Romney abandoned plans yesterday to exempt Roman Catholic and other private hospitals from a new law requiring them to dispense emergency contraception to rape victims.

Romney had initially backed regulations proposed earlier this week by his public health commissioner, Paul Cote Jr., who said the new law conflicted with an older law barring the state from forcing private hospitals to dispense contraceptive devices or information.

The Republican governor, who is considering a run for president in 2008, said at a news conference yesterday morning that he asked his legal advisers to review the matter after members of both parties criticized the regulations. He said the lawyers determined that the new law superseded the old law and that all hospitals should be required to offer the “morning after pill.”

“On that basis, I have instructed the Department of Public Health to follow the conclusion of my own legal counsel and to adopt that sounder view,” Romney said.

The new law takes effect Dec. 14. Passed this summer by the Legislature, which then overrode Romney’s veto, it states that the pill must be available to “each female rape victim.” Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, the likely GOP nominee for governor next year if Romney decides not to seek re-election, had broken ranks with the governor on the issue, saying Wednesday that all hospitals should be required to distribute the pill.

Attorney General Tom Reilly, a Democrat who is running for governor in 2006, also opposed letting some hospitals opt out of the new law. “There shouldn’t be any confusion about this,” he said. “The law is clear. It applies to all hospitals without exemption.”

The emergency contraception pill is a high dose of hormones that women can take up to five days after sex to prevent pregnancy. Opponents contend the pill is little different from an abortion because it blocks the fertilized egg from being implanted on the uterine wall.

A good defense of the HHS ruling was made by Joan Walsh, Katha Pollitt, and Sadly, No!.

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