JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- At a Monday morning rally at the Hyatt Regency Riverfront in Jacksonville, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich sharply condemned the Obama administration's recent decision not to exempt religiously-affiliated groups from a rule requiring employers to offer birth control coverage to the women they employ.
"The Obama administration is engaged in a war against religion," he said.
The new rule stems straight from the Affordable Care Act. Most women employed in the U.S. will have the cost of their birth control covered with no co-pay, effective Aug. 1.
The rule always exempted employers such as churches and other places of worship whose primary purpose is imparting religious beliefs. But many religious groups argued it was too narrow and should apply to religious-affiliated organizations as well. The Obama administration disagreed, but it gave these employers an extra year to comply with the new law.
"Their decision last week that they would impose on every Catholic institution, every Jewish institution, every Protestant institution, the Obamacare standard of what you have to buy as insurance is a direct violation of freedom and religion -- an example of the increasingly dictatorial attitude of this administration," Gingrich said.
"Cardinal Timothy Dolan has said this is a direct assault of freedom of religion in America and a complete violation of our First Amendment rights," he added, referencing objections of the new rule by the Catholic Church, of which Gingrich is a member. "On the first day that I am president, I will issue an executive order repealing every aspect of infringement upon religious liberties in America at that moment."
Dolan is currently archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He will soon be elevated to cardinal. In the wake of the Obama administration's decision on the rule, Dolan has said he felt "a sense of personal disappointment."
"I had to share with him that I was terribly let down, disappointed and disturbed, and it seemed the news he had given me was difficult to square with the confidence I had felt in November," Dolan said of a phone conversation he had with the president on the issue.
On issues of women's reproductive rights, Gingrich supports defunding Planned Parenthood and has said he would back a federal personhood amendment defining life at conception.
Take a look at candidates' stances on issues of women's reproductive rights:
Romney's position on abortion and other women's health issues switched from pro-choice to anti-choice during his term as governor from 2003 to 2007, and his record on choice-related issues is mixed. He vetoed a measure that would have allowed pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception without a prescription to rape victims, but he signed into law a measure to expand family planning services for low-income women and families in Massachusetts. Romney was also one of the few GOP candidates who refused to sign the Susan B. Anthony List's pro-life pledge, because his camp said it could have some "potentially unforeseen consequences." But he believes abortion should only be legal in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother, and he said if he were president he would support the reversal of Roe v. Wade. "This is not the time for the Republican Party to put up a candidate who is weak on the pro-life issue or has a history of flip-flopping over it," Bachmann said of Romney at a National Right to Life convention in June. Romney said as president he would defund Planned Parenthood, and then took it even further saying he'd "get rid of that" altogether.
During his 19 years in Congress, Gingrich cast 74 votes on reproductive rights, women's health and family planning issues, and 72 of those were anti-choice. Gingrich voted multiple times to give legal "personhood" status to an embryo and supported the Federal Abortion Ban, which would impose a two-year prison sentence on doctors who perform certain kinds of abortions. He also repeatedly voted to deny military women the right to have abortions at military hospitals, even if they paid for it themselves, and cited "biological problems" as his reason for opposing women's right to join the military. As president, Gingrich has said he would try to defund Planned Parenthood and eliminate the entire Title X program, which provides non-abortion family planning services for millions of low-income women across the country.
Paul has stated he is pro-life, however he's more moderate on abortion than some of the other GOP presidential candidates, particularly Rick Santorum. When pressed, he conceded that if one of his daughters was raped, he would not want her to have the child. Paul weighed in on contraception on "The Tonight Show" in March. As a former OBG-YN, Paul said he's prescribed a lot of contraception. "If people have reservations about abortion, the abortion is the issue, it isn't the birth control pill. It isn't the instrument, he said.
Santorum wants abortion banned in all circumstances, even in cases of rape and incest; is opposed to all family planning programs; and believes that schools should be forbidden to teach students about contraception. As a senator, Santorum voted against funding pregnancy prevention programs for teens and voted for the "family cap" and the "illegitimacy cap," which would have financially penalized low-income women for having children and penalized states for children born out of wedlock. And one of Santorum's priorities as president, he has said, will be to defund Planned Parenthood, which he believes is motivated by racism and eugenics. "I can't imagine any other organization with its roots as poisonous as the roots of Planned Parenthood getting federal funding of any kind," he told reporters in April.