Political fallout from birth control fight: A glimmer of good news for Obama?
Under fire from Catholic bishops and others, the Obama administration had to backtrack on contraception and health insurance. But many Catholics differ with the church hierarchy over birth control.
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But Sister Carol Keehan, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, which represents hundreds of church-run hospitals and other facilities, was much more effusive in her response.Skip to next paragraph
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“The Catholic Health Association is very pleased with the White House announcement that a resolution has been reached that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions,” Sister Keehan said in a statement. “We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished.”
That appreciation for and support of Obama by the Catholic Health Association was seen earlier and in more controversial fashion when the organization supported the President’s health care reform plan.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops was furious with Keehan, charging that she had “weakened the moral voice of the bishops in the US.”
That episode illustrated the divide between the church hierarchy and many Catholics over some important moral and therefore political questions – particularly when that hierarchy is all-male and the question involves women’s sexuality and reproductive health.
The Guttmacher Institute reported last April that 98 percent of Catholic women have used methods of contraception not approved by the church.
“Sixty-eight percent of Catholic women use highly effective methods of contraception: sterilization, the pill or another hormonal method, and the IUD,” Guttmacher reported. Only 2 percent of Catholic women rely wholly on natural family planning (the “rhythm method”) allowed under church doctrine.
Also regarding today’s controversy over contraception, health care insurance, and religious institutions, many (perhaps most) Catholics apparently do not go along with their bishops.
The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) reported this week that 58 percent of Catholics believe that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception and that a majority of all Catholics (52 percent) say that religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should be required to provide coverage that includes contraception.
“Given how closely divided Catholic voters are … it seems unlikely that this issue will galvanize Catholics nationally and seriously undermine Obama’s electoral prospects with this important religious constituency,” said PRRI research director Daniel Cox.
We’ll all have to wait until November to know if that’s true.