UPDATE #2: Democrats double down on contraception

Update #2

Well, it’s on. No more nonsense about “compromise” or “backing down.”

ABC News reports: Senate Democrats Say Obama ‘Reinforced’ His Stance on Contraception Mandate at Democratic Retreat. What’s more, they’re backing him up. 

President Obama “reinforced” his stance on the controversial contraception mandate while speaking at the Democrats’ annual retreat at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. today, Senate Democrats said…

Democrats said they will “fight strongly” to keep the mandate in place.

“It is our clear understanding from the administration that the president believes as we do, and the vast majority of the American women should have access to birth control,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said pointing out that 15 percent of women use birth control for medical issues. “It’s medicine, and women deserve their medicine.”

Democrats today called on Republicans to stop using women as a “political football,” and stop defining this debate, as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., did earlier in the day, as a religious issue.

Note that Barbara Boxer’s comment about women taking the pill for medical issues is both a red herring and a telling admission, since it tacitly acknowledges that taking the pill for purely contraceptive reasons is not “medical.”

The Church does not oppose prescribing hormonal treatments, including the pill, to treat actual medical conditions. In the same way, the Church recognizes the need for some therapies that result in sterility; that’s not the same as sterilization per se, i.e., a woman getting her tubes tied or a man getting a vasectomy.

In many cases women who take the pill for medical reasons, including devout Catholic women, are not even sexually active, so its contraceptive effects are purely incidental. Even where this is not the case, medication that has contraceptive side effects can be morally legitimate as long as the contraceptive effects are not the reason (or a reason) for the treatment.

Religious employers that object to contraception can cover legitimate hormonal therapies without violation of conscience. That doesn’t open the door to forcing religious employers to cover measures that are specifically contraceptive, sterilizing or abortifacient.

Update #1

Sure enough, in a press conference this afternoon, press secretary Jay Carney reaffirmed Obama’s commitment to the HHS mandate as it stands, though he declined to comment on whether the president would override a veto promised by Republican leadership.

We are committed, the president is committed, to ensuring that woman have access to contraception without any extra cost, regardless of where they work.

So, there you have it. When Axelrod says “we need to lower our voices,” he doesn’t mean “both sides,” It’s a soft version of “Shut up, he explained.”

Original post

“The art of saying ‘nice doggie’ until you can find a rock” is how Will Rogers famously defined diplomacy. Often enough, it’s an apt definition for politics too.

Strangely, some dogs seem to be buying it. A NewsMax story picked up by Fox News solemnly reported, “Obama Signals He May Back Down on Contraception Mandate,” and opened with the lede, “Roman Catholic pressure to get the Obama administration to back down from its insistence that they provide free contraceptives in their healthcare plans appeared to be paying off on Tuesday.”

Really? Is that what Obama is signaling?

The story quotes David Axelrod, a top adviser to President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, telling MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “I think we need to lower our voices and get together.”

“Lower our voices.” And whose voices have been raised? Why, the president’s critics—a broad coalition representing a wide range of religious (or non-religious) and political perspectives, all concerned about the administration’s blithe disregard for first amendment protections of religious freedom.

The clamor of critical opinion is loud and growing. It’s been suggested that it could cost Obama reelection. I’m sure Axelrod would like “us” to lower “our” voices—at least until November. Note that this statement didn’t come from the press secretary or a top policy adviser, but an adviser to the president’s reelection campaign.

Axelrod also said:

We have great respect for the work that these institutions do, and we certainly don’t want to abridge anyone’s religious freedoms, so we’re going to look for a way to move forward that both provides women with the preventative care that they need and respects the prerogatives of religious institutions.

Well, that sounds not entirely unpromising, in theory. But then the story goes on:

Axelrod said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had already given churches an exemption to the mandate, against the recommendation of the Institute of Medicine. “The question now is about these extended affiliated institutions … and there are tens of thousands – hundreds of thousands – of women who work in these hospitals and universities who are not Catholic or they may be Catholic and they use birth control. The question is whether they are going to have the same package that every other woman in the country has to the same right and access to basic preventive care.”

Catch that? Just look at how generous Sebelius has already been with churches: It’s not like she’s making the Church pay for contraceptive and abortifacient coverage for employees of actual parishes and dioceses! Even though the Institute of Medicine thought she should! What more do you want?

And the last sentence gives it all away: In the eyes of the administration, coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortifacients is “basic preventive care.” It’s a question of whether all women have the “same rights.”

That’s not something this administration is looking to back down from. Anyone who thinks otherwise is asking for a rock upside the head by year’s end.

What do you think?