Obama Ignores Mandate Questions; Republicans Bash It

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 9, 2012   |   7:52PM   |   Washington, DC

President Barack Obama refused to answer a question today from reporters wanting to know more about his reaction to the massive backlash that has swelled against his mandate to religious employers to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions.

As The Hill reports:

President Obama had a lot to say on Thursday. He praised a housing settlement at one event at the White House. He talked about No Child Left Behind at another. But Obama didn’t have much to add about the looming contraception uproar that has plagued the White House in recent days. Obama didn’t respond to two questions on the divisive topic.

“Do you stand by your contraceptive decision?” one reporter asked him, as he stood before a slew of television cameras. “Is there anything you want to share with us about your contraception rule?” another reporter asked. “Thank you, everybody,” Obama responded, ignoring the questions. “Thank you.”

When reporters didn’t pick up on Obama’s cues, he pointed to the prime minister, as if to say he didn’t want to discuss those matters in this setting. “Come on, guys,” he said, trying to usher the press corps out of the room.

Meanwhile, the Republican presidential candidates have been taking verbal swings at Obama for imposing the mandate on religious employers, which is not popular in the latest public opinion poll and which even some Democrats oppose.

“It’s the churches’ money, and forcing them to do something that they think is a grievous moral wrong, how can that be the right of a woman?” pro-life Republican hopeful Rick Santorum said when asked about the mandate and whether it upholds women’s rights in an interview on CNN’s “John King USA.”

“That has nothing to do with the right of a woman,” Santorum continued. “This has to do with the right of a church not to spend their moral resources in a way that’s inconsistent with their faith and this is not a casually held position, this is something that is serious. We’re not talking about denying women the access to contraception, they can go and get it, but we’re talking about having a church of which they happen to chose to work for and they know their position in working for them, you’re now forcing them as a condition of employing people to pay for something that again is a grievous moral wrong.”

“I am not guided solely by faith, I am guided by reason,” Santorum said. “I have an obligation as a public official to make a reason argument to people of faith and no faith as to why this is good public policy for America, so I rely upon reason when I do that.”

Mitt Romney has also denuonced the mandate.

He said in an opinion column, “The Obama administration is at it again. They are now using Obamacare to impose a secular vision on Americans who believe that they should not have their religious freedom taken away. 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,” he added. “I am committed to overturning Obamacare root and branch. If I am elected President, on day one of my administration I will issue an executive order directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue a waiver from its requirements to all 50 states. And on day one I will eliminate the Obama administration rule that compels religious institutions to violate the tenets of their own faith. Such rules don’t belong in the America that I believe in. The America I believe in is governed by the U.S. Constitution and I will not hesitate to use the powers of the presidency to protect religious liberty.”

Newt Gingrich, a Catholic, told Ohio Republicans that the policy was “the Obama administration’s attack on the Catholic Church.”

The Obama administration is reportedly considering a compromise on its new mandate that has caused national outrage because it forces religious employers to cover birth control and drugs that may cause abortions. However, the leading pro-life spokesman for the Catholic bishops says the compromise may be worse.

Congressman Steve Scalise has led a bipartisan letter with 154 co-signers calling on the Obama Administration to reverse its unconstitutional mandate forcing religious organizations to include drugs that can cause abortion and birth control in the health care plans of their employees.

Bishops across the country have spoken out against the mandate and are considering a lawsuit against it — with bishops in more than 164 locations across the United States issuing public statements against it or having letters opposing it printed in diocesan newspaper or read from the pulpit.

“We cannot — we will not comply with this unjust law,” said the letter from Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix. “People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens.”

Responding to the announcement, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated: “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”

“To force Americans to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable. . . It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom,” he added.

The mandate is so egregious that even the normally reliably liberal and pro-abortion USA Today condemned it in an editorial titled, “Contraception mandate violates religious freedom.”

The administration initially approved a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine suggesting that it force insurance companies to pay for birth control and drugs that can cause abortions under the Obamacare government-run health care program.

The IOM recommendation, opposed by pro-life groups, called for the Obama administration to require insurance programs to include birth control — such as the morning after pill or the ella drug that causes an abortion days after conception — in the section of drugs and services insurance plans must cover under “preventative care.” The companies will likely pass the added costs on to consumers, requiring them to pay for birth control and, in some instances, drug-induced abortions of unborn children in their earliest days.

The HHS accepted the IOM guidelines that “require new health insurance plans to cover women’s preventive services” and those services include “FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling” — which include birth control drugs like Plan B and ella that can cause abortions. The Health and Human Services Department commissioned the report from the Institute, which advises the federal government and shut out pro-life groups in meetings leading up to the recommendations.