Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (D) has accused the Catholic leadership of “hyperventilating” over the Obama administration’s new regulation requiring employers and insurers to cover reproductive health benefits without additional co-pay. Catholic organizations argue that the rule violates their religious liberties and are planning to sue the federal government, even though the measure includes a narrow religious exemption that mirrors existing conscience protections in New York and California.
During an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, O’Malley, himself a Catholic, claimed that the Church is politicizing the health care debate and moving the goal posts from abortion to contraception in their war against the administration:
O’MALLEY: I am Catholic. And I think, Candy, there’s been a little bit too much hyperventilating over this issue…this is not about abortion. It’s about covering contraception as part of the health care coverage, mandatory, basic coverage. 28 states already require this. And in Europe –
CANDY CROWLEY (HOST): But you’re not thinking about the state, the federal government, telling a religion what it must cover in a health care policy.
O’MALLEY: Well, there is an exemption for the — for churches themselves. The exemption does not necessarily extend to institutions like hospitals or universities that employ people of all faiths. But these same rules apply in countries like Italy which have overwhelming numbers of Catholics. And yet we did not see the reaction in those countries to these sorts of things.
Indeed, of the 28 states that already require contraception coverage 8 do not offer religious organizations conscience protections. In those states, the Obama rule is actually expanding the conscience guidelines and allowing houses of worship to stop offering birth control for the very first time.
But the outrage here is truly manufactured and politically-motivated. 98 percent of Catholic women use contraception and many Catholic employers already offer it. If we are truly to believe that the Obama regulation undermines their sensibilities, then we’d have to accept that Catholic churches are oppressed in 28 states and nearly persecuted in eight of them.