The Sunday morning talk shows were a cacophony of apoplectic right wingers like George Will and Matthew Dowd on This Week and David Brooks and GOP Strategist Alex Castellanos on Meet the Press attacking President Barack Obama for finally standing up to Catholic big business.
Obama did this by insisting that if a religious institution serves the general public, employs the general public, has a secular purpose, and takes public money, it must abide by the law: in this case, the Affordable Care Act, which requires employers to provide women with insurance coverage for all forms of birth control, without a deductible or co-pay. Excluded from this responsibility are directly religious entities, like churches.
These hysterical conservative voices are doing no more than echoing the latest spin brought to us by the Church's master spinmeisters: the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bishops have been shouting from the rooftops that by this action, the administration is trampling "religious liberty."
The question is: Whose religious liberty?
Catholic women who choose to use birth control (more than 90% of American Catholic women) are making that decision based on one of the most cherished beliefs in the Catholic faith: the primacy of conscience.
Following one's conscience is not only the right of a Catholic, but the duty. Conscience is described eloquently (with a gender tweak) in the Vatican II document, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. It says:
"For woman has in her heart a law written by God: to obey it is the very dignity of woman: according to it she will be judged."
So thank you President Obama. You protected the religious liberty of the hundreds of thousands of Catholic women -- and non-Catholic women -- who work for these important institutions. You saw to it that these women have this crucial element of primary care, which, by helping them to space births, will go a long way towards protecting their health as mothers and the health of their infants.
Actually, it was a very pro-life move.
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