On February 10, President Obama announced a revision to the HHS life-ending drug mandate. National Public Radio characterized the President’s action as addressing “concerns of the Catholic Church.” In doing so, wittingly or not, NPR read from the pro-abortion script.
In this most recent replay of this old script, abortion proponents dismiss opposition to the HHS mandate as a move by the “all-male hierarchy” of the Catholic Church to deny women’s rights. “The Bishops’ War on Women” is a rant intended to mischaracterize the issue as the one of equal healthcare rights for women. The strategy includes making the hierarchy of the Catholic Church the enemy of women because the bishops uphold Catholic teaching against the use of birth control. Hence, the constant reference by pro-abortionists to “the birth control mandate.”
The claims that the pro-life movement is limited to the Catholic hierarchy and that they are trying to control the U.S. government were used long ago by Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger. The aim then, and now, is to create a boogey-man that can be dismissed as marginal and extreme.
In 1926, Sanger unsuccessfully sought Congressional support for repeal of the Comstock Act. She wrote in the American Birth Control League’s newsletter that the predecessor group of what is now the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had created “a special legislative committee organized to block and defeat our legislation. They frankly state that they intend to legislate for non-Catholics according to the dictates of the church.”
No such committee existed, but Sanger tried to influence public opinion by suggesting that the Catholic Church hierarchy was her only opposition. Later, the pro-abortion lobby used Sanger’s tactic in the lead-up to Roe. Former abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a founder of NARAL, admitted that maligning the Catholic Church and claiming the hierarchy was the sole opponent to the abortion cause was a “key tactic” for the legalization of abortion.
Using Sanger’s strategy today, one pro-abortion writer characterizes the Catholic Church hierarchy as a “group of men with no real background in law or medicine, but blessed with a strong personal interest in women’s bodies” which has “quietly influenced all of the major anti-abortion legislation over the past several years.”
The president of NOW, Terry O’Neill, goes further, denying the right of the Church to hold and express its moral teaching, charging, “[F]or a bunch of men [Catholic bishops] who, forgive me, don’t get pregnant and who refuse to allow women into their own ranks of leadership, to presume to say that they can make a thing that has a conscience that trumps the conscience of an individual woman is simply laughable, but in a sad way.”
However, the truth is quite different. Opposition to the HHS mandate extends well beyond the “hierarchy,” and the reasons are not limited to shared opposition to contraception. A number of groups that do not oppose artificial contraception or sterilization, such as Americans United for Life, object to the mandate because it forces employers, against their conscientious moral beliefs, to offer plans that include FDA-approved “contraceptives” with abortifacient mechanisms of action. [related]
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, insists that the HHS mandate “is not only a Catholic issue” about birth control, but affects evangelical seminaries and colleges which oppose abortion, [who] “will also be covered by this mandate and thus violate our own consciences” (because of the mandate’s inclusion of abortion-inducing drugs). Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, whose membership numbers 15 million, points out that the new HHS revision does not protect the numerous religious organizations that self-insure, such as the Southern Baptists do for over 200,000 missionaries, social workers, pastors, and others.
The HHS mandate violates conscience rights and religious liberty protected by the Constitution. Numerous non-Catholic religious organizations and leaders object to the mandate’s affront to religious liberty. These include a range of Protestant pastors and organizations (including the National Association of Evangelicals), representatives of Jewish groups (including the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America), and the Orthodox Church.
Members of Congress who are not Catholic, but recognize the risk to constitutional guarantees of religion freedom, are speaking out. Among them is U.S. Senator Orin Hatch, who stated in response to the announcement of the HHS revision, “This is about religious freedom, and anything short of a full exemption is no compromise.” And U.S. Representative Jim Jordan said, “Under these rules, a small business owner with religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs and contraception must either violate his religious beliefs or violate the law….This ObamaCare rule still tramples on Americans’ First Amendment right to freedom of religion.”
The abortion lobby will continue to frame the debate as one about the Catholic hierarchy and women’s rights. And though NARAL’s president characterizes the HHS mandate as “mainstream policy…in line with our country’s values and priorities,” it is already evident that millions of Americans do not agree. The ever-growing broad base of pro-life supporters and countless others who care about constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and of conscience for all will work ceaselessly to defeat the abortion lobby’s lies.
LifeNews Note: Bill Saunders is an Americans United for Life attorney and LifeNews blogger. Evangeline Jones is National Director of Lawyers for Life at Americans United for Life.