Mitt Romney defended a rule requiring insurers and employers to provide contraception coverage as part of their health insurance plans at Wednesday night’s GOP presidential debate in Arizona, so long as “people don’t have to have coverage for contraceptives or other type of medical devices which are contrary to their religious teachings.” The former Massachusetts governor was describing his own 2006 health care reform law, which greatly expanded access to contraception — but his characterization could also apply to President Obama’s contraception regulation. Watch the exchange:
“[T]here’s a provision in Massachusetts general laws that says people don’t have to have coverage for contraceptives or other type of medical devices which are contrary to their religious teachings,” Romney said. “Churches also don’t have to provide that to entities which are either the church themselves or entities they control.”
Under Romneycare, the state’s Commonwealth Care — which offers subsidized, low or no-cost insurance program for low-income residents without access to employer-sponsored health insurance — provides primary and preventive care that includes “family planning services” and prescription contraceptives. Massachusetts employers that are not “a church or qualified church-controlled organization” must also cover hormone replacement therapy and all FDA-approved contraceptive methods.
Romney argued that a similar regulation included in the Affordable Care Act would force “the Catholic Church to provide for its employees and its various enterprises health care insurance that would include birth control, sterilization and the morning-after pill.” The provision seeks to guarantee all women access to contraception without additional cost sharing, but actually exempts churches and nonprofits primarily serving people of the same faith from that mandate and, under a recent modification, would also allow religiously affiliated colleges, universities, and hospitals that raise religious objections to stop providing birth control coverage.
“We have to have individuals that will stand up for religious conscience, and I did and I will again as president,” Romney pledged at the debate. However, since Obama’s new federal standard would expand conscience protections beyond the “church or qualified church-controlled organization[s]” to include religiously affiliated nonprofits, his regulation would likely go further in meeting that goal than existing Massachusetts law. For instance, if Boston College is required to provide birth control under the law’s overseen by Romney in Massachusetts, it could drop the coverage — and leave the matter to its insurer — under Obama’s new requirement.
In 2005, Romney also “signed a bill that could expand the number of people who get family-planning services, including the morning-after pill.” Romney even pressured the state Department of Health and Human Services to issue regulations that required Catholic hospitals to issue the morning after pill to rape victims, despite initially vetoing the bill and claiming that the pill constituted an “abortifacient.” “My personal view in my heart of hearts is that people who are subject to rape should have the option of having emergency contraceptives or emergency contraceptive information,” he told the Boston Herald at the time.