In a speech to the National Rifle Association Friday, likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney waded back into the contraception wars, attacking President Obama’s health care provision requiring employers, including religiously affiliated groups, to provide contraceptive coverage to female employees — a requirement Romney vowed to repeal. But in doing so, he elided two key facts about his tenure as governor of Massachusetts: that he enforced a very nearly identical mandate at the state level enacted by his predecessor; and advanced a separate one requiring religiously affiliated hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.
From Romney’s prepared remarks:
Now, the Obama administration has decided that it has the power to mandate what Catholic charities, schools and hospitals must cover in their insurance plans. It’s easy to forget how often President Obama assured us that under Obamacare, nothing in our insurance plans would have to change. Remember that one? Well, here we are, just getting started with Obamacare, and the federal government is already dictating to religious groups on matters of doctrine and conscience.
In all of America, there is no larger private provider of healthcare for women and their babies than the Catholic Church. But that’s not enough for the Obamacare bureaucrats. No, they want Catholics to fall in line and violate the tenets of their faith.
As President, I will follow a very different path than President Obama. I will be a staunch defender of religious freedom. The Obamacare regulation is not a threat and insult to only one religious group - it is a threat and insult to every religious group. As President, I will abolish it.
A 2002 Massachusetts law imposed the same requirement on religiously affiliated hospitals in the state, and as governor, Romney neither abolished it nor objected to it on grounds of religious liberty.
In 2005, after a long tussle with the liberal legislature, which overrode his initial veto, Romney signed his signature health care law — the predecessor to “Obamacare” — which included a mandate requiring all hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims. His erstwhile primary opponent Rick Santorum attacked him for that decision.
Santorum and Newt Gingrich both criticized Romney for the 2002 law during the GOP primary, and called it another example of Romney lacking the conservative bona fides to carry his party’s banner. Now that the general election is in full swing, some Republicans feared Romney would live up to that charge by shifting to the middle on divisive issues just like this one. But Romney indicated Friday that he’s ready to dive back into the treacherous waters of the contraception fight, despite the baggage of his own political past.
Polls show Americans are not interested in having this fight. February surveys found Americans — including Catholics — overwhelmingly supported the Obama administration’s new contraception access rules. One of Romney’s surrogates, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), called on Republicans to abandon the debate, which has proven to be a cash windfall for Democratic-allied women’s groups and female Democratic candidates.
And then of course there are the national polls which have shown women fleeing the GOP and Romney after months of sustained contraception talk.