Editor’s Note: Ashley McGuire is senior fellow with The Catholic Association and is the founder and editor-in-chief of AltCatholicah, a Web magazine devoted to the exploration of faith and gender.
Ashley McGuire: Catholics knew Obama was deceptive; now rest of America knows
She says Obama went back on his word regarding conscience rights and types of birth control
Her bottom line: Obamacare subsidizes abortion pill coverage with taxpayer dollars
It was the 2013 Politifact “Lie of the Year,” our president’s now infamous line: “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” Now all Americans are realizing what Catholics have known from the beginning: President Barack Obama is a master of deception.
Lest people forget, passage of the Affordable Care Act happened in part because Obama struck a deal with a single Catholic holdout: Bart Stupak, D-Michigan. Stupak agreed to vote for the bill in exchange for an executive order protecting conscience rights and preserving the Hyde Amendment’s ban on the use of federal funds for abortion. Stupak had insisted on an amendment. Instead, he took the President’s word.
The President turned around and stuck in the knife: He used the ACA to mandate that all employers, regardless of religious objection, pay for and provide what many of us in the anti-abortion movement consider abortion drugs in their health care plans. Now, those mandates go into effect for most religiously affiliated charities in just a few days, on January 1.
Supreme Court to take up Obamacare contraception case
This came after the President assured Catholics in his commencement address at Notre Dame that he would “honor the conscience of those that disagree with abortion and draft a sensible conscience clause” and after assuring Congress that “under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience protections will remain in place.”
In speaking to America’s pre-eminent Catholic university, it was as if the President was speaking to American Catholics everywhere.
Yet it’s now clear that the promised separate accounts for abortion coverage funded by separate abortion premiums billed directly to the insured were not what they appeared to be, and the President is facing one of the largest religious liberty lawsuits in American history.
The lawsuit now boasts more than 200 plaintiffs, one recent addition of note being the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns that cares for the impoverished and dying elderly. Cases from the for-profit sector have already reached the Supreme Court, and in just a few days, the mandate goes into effect for religious charities.
In the words of Stupak, “I am perplexed and disappointed that, having negotiated the executive order with the President, not only does that HHS mandate violate the executive order, but it also violates statutory law. I think it is illegal.”
Splice and dice it how you like. Some say Obamacare mandates and subsidizes abortion coverage with taxpayer dollars.
Under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, abortion drugs such as RU-486, or Mifeprex, are not covered or mandated. However, drugs known as “morning after” or “week after” pills that delay ovulation — such as Plan B and “ella”— are covered under Obamacare. Some of these forms of contraception – in particular “ella” or ulipristal acetate – carry FDA labels that include a warning that they can destroy embryos by rendering the endometrium inhospitable. It is these drugs that are in debate in the Hobby Lobby case and others before the Supreme Court, as objectors consider the destruction of an embryo to be an abortion.
Some American Catholics feel that the President deceived the most high-ranking Catholic in America, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, then the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In a now infamous meeting at the White House, the President promised Dolan that he would respect the conscience rights of Catholics and their institutions and would not force them to cover things such as abortifacients – a drug or substance that can induce an abortion – and that the administration would change its policy with regard to religious institutions. Dolan has made it clear that he felt misled.
What many American Catholics don’t know is that the President told the same untruth to the previous Pope himself. According to a Vatican insider, the President assured Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 that constitutional religious liberty protections for American Catholics would remain strong in his first breath when visiting the Vatican.
Since then, Dolan has become the face of Catholic opposition to the mandate. Under his bold shepherding, the entire conference of Catholic bishops has held firm in defending the conscience rights of religious employers. He has led the Catholic Church in America through one of the most appalling and puzzling periods of deception and legal harassment since the First Amendment became the law of the land.
As Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville steps into his shoes, he has the daunting task of trying to negotiate religious liberty with a leader who excels in equivocation right as the mandate finally takes effect for scores of Catholic and other religious charities facing enormous fines for refusing to comply.
So this New Year’s Day, as Americans put away the glitter and the tinsel, perhaps people will finally realize what some Catholics have been saying all along: Our President threw quite a party, but it’s over. And now the truth sets in.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ashley McGuire.