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article imageGingrich, Catholic bishops attack Obama's birth control policy

By JohnThomas Didymus     Feb 6, 2012 in World
Washington - Newt Gingrich has intensified attacks against President Obama over his administration's birth control policy that requires some religious hospitals and other institutions to offer birth control under the new health care law.
Gingrich's attack on the Obama administration comes after the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, issued a mandate that requires Catholic institutions that receive public funds, where the majority of employees or people served are non-Catholics, to provide birth control services under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The mandate also stipulates that non-profit employers previously exempted now have only a year to comply. According to Sebelious: “I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between requiring religious freedom and increasing access to important prevention services.”
ABC News reports that Gingrich, speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," said: "This is a tremendous infringement of religious liberty. Every time you turn around the secular government is shrinking the rights of religious institutions in America." He added: "The fact is what you're saying is there cannot be a genuine Catholic hospital. It will have to be subordinated to a secular government."
According to ABC News, Gingrich on CBS's "Face the Nation," also said the policy showed that the Obama administration was "at war" with the Catholic Church. He accused the administration of launching "the most outrageous assault on religious freedom in American history." According to Gingrich, the threat that Obama posed to the future of the U.S. was so great that he would be happy to support his rival Mitt Romney as Republican presidential candidate in the general elections: "I believe President Obama is such a direct threat to the future of this country that I will support the Republican nominee because I believe that President Obama is a disaster."
The administration's new policy first announced in August last year, came under renewed attention last week after Catholic Churches in the United States read letters from the Catholic hierarchy that condemned the policy. But Cecilia Munoz, Domestic Policy Council Director, defended the administration, saying the policy does not force anyone to use contraception. She said in a White House blog post:
"This new law will save money for millions of Americans. But more importantly, it will ensure Americans nationwide get the high-quality care they need to stay healthy. The Obama Administration is committed to both respecting religious beliefs and increasing access to important preventive services."
Newt Gingrich  former candidate for 2012 Republican Party presidential nomination
Newt Gingrich, former candidate for 2012 Republican Party presidential nomination
Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Obama administration faces criticism
The Obama administration has come under a barrage of attacks over its policy that will require some religious hospitals, charities and schools include free birth control in their health care plans. The administration announced on January 20 that Catholic hospitals where the majority of employees or people served are non-Catholics will have to provide free contraception.
USA Today, for instance, criticized the move, saying it would put "Those organizations and the people who lead them...in the impossibly awkward position of facilitating contraception even though the church teaches that it is 'intrinsically wrong to use contraception to prevent new human beings from coming into existence.'"
While USA Today rejects the claim by the administration's opponents of a "war on Catholics," or "war on religion," it agrees that the mandate violates the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom and suggests that the administration adopt the Hawaiian solution where women at exempted institutions can buy inexpensive contraception coverage outside their workplace.
The Catholic News Agency (CNA) condemned the new mandate, saying it "strikes, quite blatantly and aggressively, against two historical bulwarks in the American way of life. The first attack is on marriage and the family, individual cells that collectively form the body politic. The second assault is on freedom of religion, a basic principle enshrined in the First Amendment of U.S. Constitution. Mandated contraception...poisons the natural roots of marriage and prevents the fruits of conjugal love – children and a family – from blossoming with unique, creative beauty into the world. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that marriage and the family are 'ordered to the good of the spouses' and 'o the procreation and education of children' (2201). On a practical level, what many spouses (especially young newlyweds) ignore is how embracing any artificial technologies for the explicit purpose of preventing pregnancy will destroy profound relational links between them over time."
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Wikipedia / Pope Benedictus XVI
Why the Catholic Church opposes contraception
The Catholic Church's teaching applies its overall bias in favor of celibacy to marriage by prescribing that couples who do not want children should abstain rather than engage in what the Church describes as "selfish or lustful sex." The Church's position that sex is primarily for procreation and not pleasure and that sex with the primary aim of pleasure is illegitimate is reflected in the CNA article by Jason Godin, who teaches U.S. history at Blinn College in Bryan, Texas: "Contraception covers over the tough decisions about how you see your spouse and the ultimate purpose of your marriage. Decisions that forge strong marriages require honesty, mutual trust, and shared communication. What may appear initially as a prudent choice – husband and wife proclaim together how 'we’re not ready for children' for financial reasons, for example – can lead, with contraception, away from selfless, loving giving and toward selfish taking from the other in lust."
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vavavoomllc via Flickr.com
The Catholic leadership fights back
Reuters reports American Catholic clergy have called on Catholics to write Congress to protest the new birth control rules. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has released an "Urgent Action Alert" calling on Catholics to write to their lawmakers in protest.
According to Reuters, Monsignor David E. Diamond at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in the Philadelphia suburb of Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, read the letter from Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, asking Catholics to contact members of Congress. The letter said: "Write them, call them, visit them - and help them understand the deep resistance of Pennsylvania Catholics to this dangerous ruling."
Fears of an election backlash on Obama
While polls, according to The New York Times, show that 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women ignore the church teaching on contraceptives, some analysts say the new policy may rebound on the Obama administration in the November elections. Obama, in 2008, won the votes of 54 percent Catholics. Catholics are about a quarter of the U.S poulation with large numbers in such key states as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The Washington Times agrees that Obama may have elicited an election-year backlash from Catholics and voters of other faiths with his administration's decision. The Washington Times comments that Catholics are a voting bloc Obama cannot afford to alienate, saying that since 1972, the presidential candidate who won the most white Catholic votes also has won the presidency.
Other analysts say, however, that the Catholic hierarchy is out of touch with its members given that most Catholics ignore the teaching prohibiting contraception. The opinion is that it is unlikely that most Catholic supporters of Obama will feel strongly enough about the issue to vote against Obama in the 2012 elections. Analysts who hold this view hint that people may be underestimating how much access to birth control services means to women, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. According to Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, “Full birth control coverage matters to women from all corners of this country — and when it mattered most, President Obama stood strong against efforts to take it away.”
Oral contraceptives with Dial dispenser.
Oral contraceptives with Dial dispenser.
BetteDavisEyes / Wikipedia
Exploring the options
USA Today notes employees having freely chosen their employer may have only weak legal grounds against religious institutions that do not provide for contraception in their health care insurance. USA Today quotes Sister Mary Ann Walsh of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, saying: "When you go to a Jewish deli, you are not expecting pork chops."
USA Today suggests that the administration work out a compromise such as the approach in Hawaii where women at exempted institutions can access affordable contraception coverage outside their workplace.
Staunch supporters of the new birth control regulations, however, insist that the administration stand its grounds on the matter. A reader commenting on The New York Times, said: "The honorable thing for Catholic universities to do under these circumstances is to refuse to accept federal aid, in order to be true to their principles. If these universities do not refuse federal aid, then they should abide by federal rules."
Another reader comments on the impracticability of the Church refusing government funds: "As George Carlin used to say: 'God loves you – but He needs money! He ALWAYS needs money!'"
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