The U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops almost immediately rejected a compromise on requiring contraception coverage that the Obama administration announced on Friday, and Republicans have continued to attack the accommodation. Under the compromise, religious institutions will not be required to provide contraceptive coverage because insurers will provide contraception directly to employees at no cost, completely removing religious institutions from the equation. But this deal was not enough to satisfy conservative opposition.
On ABC’s This Week, Rep. Paul Ryan echoed the Republican objection of contraception coverage. Ryan told host George Stephanopolous the compromise is nothing more than a “fig leaf” and an “accounting trick”:
RYAN: To paraphrase the bishops’ letter, this thing, it’s a distinction without a difference. It’s an accounting gimmick or a fig leaf. It’s not a compromise. The president’s doubled down. [...] If this is what the president’s willing to do in a tough election year, imagine what he’s going to do to implement the rest of his health care law after an election.
STEPHANOPOLOUS: You heard Jack Lew right there, this is not going to force the institutions to pay for the coverage. [...]
RYAN: It’s a distinction without a difference. This is an accounting trick.
Watch his interview:
Ryan’s own heavily-Catholic home state of Wisconsin currently mandates contraception coverage without any exclusion for religious institutions. As ThinkProgress reported, Marquette University, a Jesuit institution located in Milwaukee, even decided to offer contraception coverage prior to the state’s mandate.
White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew repeatedly defended President Obama’s decision on several Sunday morning TV shows. “It does not force an institution that has religious principle to offer or pay for benefits that they find objectionable, but it guarantees a women’s right to access,” Lew said on Fox News Sunday. “Hopefully now this will set the issue to rest.”
And Ryan and his Republican colleagues are arguing against a policy that a majority of Catholic voters support and that major Catholic organizations favor, including the Catholic Health Association, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and Catholic Charities USA. The Rev. John Jenkins, president of the Catholic-affiliated University of Notre Dame, supported President Obama’s compromise, calling it a “a welcome step toward recognizing the freedom of religious institutions to abide by the principles that define their respective missions.”
As Republicans stand with the conservative Catholic bishops in opposition to allowing women to receive contraception at no cost, they are embracing an increasingly extreme anti-contraception position, with which even many Catholics disagree.