Catholic Voters Weren’t Persuaded By ‘Religious Liberty’ Arguments Against Obamacare

Exit polls report that a narrow majority of voters who self-identified as Catholic chose to cast their ballot for the president. Fifty percent of the sampled Catholic voters went to Barack Obama, compared to 48 percent for Mitt Romney. While the numbers aren’t overwhelming, they do reveal that efforts to turn broad swaths of Catholics away from Obama by framing his health care reform law as an affront to religious liberty fell somewhat flat.

Throughout the campaign, Obamacare opponents claimed that the law’s provision requiring employer-based insurance plans to cover contraceptive services without a co-pay compromised the religious freedom of the Catholics who opposed those services — even though the birth control regulation already includes an exemption for places of worship, as well as a widely-supported workaround allowing Catholic-affiliated institutions to shift the cost of contraception coverage onto outside insurers. Just the week before the election, a robocall financed by the Romney campaign told voters that President Obama is a “threat to our religious freedom” because he “forced Christian organizations” to provide birth control coverage that goes against their beliefs.

But despite the misleading political campaigns against Obamacare — and even though Catholic leaders often misused their positions of power to advocate against Obama — Catholic voters haven’t been persuaded. In fact, several polls have shown that the majority of Catholics agree with the contraception mandate and believe that religiously-affiliated institutions should be required to cover birth control to their employees at no extra cost. And 82 percent of Catholics don’t actually think that birth control represents a threat to their beliefs, even though the Church hierarchy continues to frame the issue in this way.

Even though Obama’s re-election means that the health care reform law is here to stay, opponents of the birth control mandate are continuing to fight it. So far, more than 110 plaintiffs have filed over 40 lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act’s contraception provision. Several of those lawsuits have already been struck down — and so far, they aren’t winning over voters, either.