New Polls Showing Catholic Support For Contraception Coverage Further Undermine "War On Religion" Claim

››› ››› CHELSEA RUDMAN

New polls released this week indicate that a majority of Catholics believe that employers should provide health care plans that cover contraception. This further undermines right-wing media claims that President Obama has declared "war on Catholics" or a "war on religion" because of his administration's recent decision requiring religiously affiliated organizations to offer health care plans that cover contraception.

Obama Administration Reaffirmed Health Insurers Must Cover Contraception

New York Times: "Obama Reaffirms Insurers Must Cover Contraception." From a January 20 New York Times article:

The Obama administration said Friday that most health insurance plans must cover contraceptives for women free of charge, and it rejected a broad exemption sought by the Roman Catholic Church for insurance provided to employees of Catholic hospitals, colleges and charities.

Federal officials said they would give such church-affiliated organizations one additional year -- until Aug. 1, 2013 -- to comply with the requirement. Most other employers and insurers must comply by this Aug. 1. [The New York Times, 1/20/12]

Recent Polls Show Majority Of Catholics Support Insurance Plans That Cover Contraception ...

Public Religion Research Institute: "Majority Of Catholics Think Employers Should Be Required To Provide Health Care Plans That Cover Birth Control At No Cost." A poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) on February 7 found that "[r]oughly 6-in-10 Catholics (58%) believe that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception." From PRRI:

Majority Support Requirement that Employer Health Care Plans Include Contraception Coverage

  • A majority (55%) of Americans agree that "employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost." Four-in-ten (40%) disagree with this requirement.
  • There are major religious, generational and political divisions:
    • Roughly 6-in-10 Catholics (58%) believe that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception.
    • Among Catholic voters, support for this requirement is slightly lower at 52%.
    • Only half (50%) of white Catholics support this requirement, compared to 47% who oppose it.
  • Among other religious Americans, 61% of religiously unaffiliated Americans believe that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception, compared to only half (50%) of white mainline Protestants and less than 4-in-10 (38%) white evangelical Protestants.

The news release about the poll included the following graph:

prri CHART

[PRRI, 2/7/12]

PRRI: "Majority Of Catholics (52%) Say That Religiously Affiliated Colleges And Hospitals Should Have To Provide Coverage That Includes Contraception." From PRRI's press release:

  • Nearly half (49%) of Americans say that religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception or birth control at no cost. Forty-six percent say they should not have to provide this type of coverage.
  • A majority of Catholics (52%) say that religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should have to provide coverage that includes contraception.
  • Among Catholic voters, however, only 45% support this requirement, while 52% oppose it.
  • Only about 4-in-10 (41%) white Catholics support this requirement, compared to 58% who oppose it. [PRRI, 2/7/12]

Public Policy Polling: "A 53 Percent Majority Of Catholic Voters" Support "Providing Women With Prescription Birth Control Without A Co-Pay." A Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey released February 7 found that "a 53 percent majority of Catholic voters" support providing birth control to women without a co-pay, and a 53 percent majority also agreed with the sentiment that "women employed by Catholic hospitals and universities should have the same rights to contraceptive coverage as other women." From PPP:

A solid 56 percent majority of voters support the decision to require health plans to cover prescription birth control with no additional out-of-pocket fees, while only 37 percent are opposed. It's particularly noteworthy that pivotal independent voters support this benefit by a 55/36 margin; in fact, a majority of voters in every racial, age, and religious category that we track express support. In particular, a 53 percent majority of Catholic voters, who were oversampled as part of this poll, favor the benefit, including fully 62 percent of Catholics who identify themselves as independents.

[...]

- A similarly strong majority (57 percent) of voters think that women employed by Catholic hospitals and universities should have the same rights to contraceptive coverage as other women, while only 39 percent say these institutions should be exempted from the requirement that health plans cover prescription birth control with no additional out-of-pocket costs because contraception runs counter to Catholic teachings. Notably, a 53 percent majority of Catholics agree with this sentiment, including 60 percent of independents. [PPP, 2/7/12, via Planned Parenthood, emphasis original]

... As Have Past Polls

Catholics For Choice Poll Found 63 Percent Of American Catholics Support Coverage For "Contraception, Such As Birth Control Pills." According to a 2009 poll conducted for Catholics for Choice, 63 percent of American Catholics said that "health insurance policies -- whether they are private or government -- should cover ... contraception, such as birth control pills."

Health insurance - contraception

[Belden Russonello & Stewart, September 2009]

And Several Catholic Groups Found A "Silver Lining" In HHS Rule

Catholic United's Executive Director: "There Is A Silver Lining In Today's Ruling. Increased Access To Contraceptive Services Will Dramatically Reduce The Abortion Rate In America." James Salt, executive director of the group Catholics United, issued this statement in response to the contraception ruling:

Although we recognize the authority of Catholic teaching on the issue of contraception, we also acknowledge that there is a silver lining in today's ruling. Increased access to contraceptive services will dramatically reduce the abortion rate in America. Reducing abortion should be a goal recognized by both sides of this highly polarized debate. Furthermore, we look forward to working with the administration in finding a win-win solution that will both meet the medical needs of women while protecting the religious liberty of Catholic institutions. [Catholics United, 1/20/12]

Catholic Democrats President Whelan: "These New Regulations ... Will Certainly Help Reduce The Number Of Unintended Pregnancies" And "Decrease The Incidence Of Abortion." Dr. Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats, issued a statement on the Department of Health and Human Services ruling that noted, "These new regulations, providing for greater access to contraception, will certainly help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies across the country, and correspondingly are likely to further decrease the incidence of abortion." From Whelan's statement:

As a physician and pediatric specialist, I know that news of the HHS regulations today means that more women will have access to the kind of health care that has been denied to millions over the years because of the high cost. Over 50% of girls and women who use contraceptives take them for reasons other than the prevention of pregnancy. Since the beginning of his first presidential campaign in 2007, President Obama has emphasized the importance of preventing unintended pregnancy as the most moral approach to solving the abortion problem. These new regulations, providing for greater access to contraception, will certainly help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies across the country, and correspondingly are likely to further decrease the incidence of abortion. [Catholic Democrats, accessed 1/26/12]

But Right-Wing Media Continue To Claim Obama Is Waging A "War On Religion"

Doocy: Obama Giving Catholics "A Year To Figure Out How To Reverse 2,000 Years Of Religious Doctrine." On the February 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy discussed the ruling with political analyst Larry Sabato. At one point, he asked Sabato, "Why do you think the, you know, the White House drew such a bold line in the sand, saying, 'Look, we're going to give you a year to figure out how to reverse 2,000 years of religious doctrine, but you got a year, so stop complaining.' " [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/8/12]

WSJ: "HHS Tells Religious Believers To Go To Hell." In a February 8 editorial titled, "ObamaCare's Great Awakening" and subtitled "HHS tells religious believers to go to hell. The public notices," The Wall Street Journal wrote:

In late January the Health and Human Services Department required almost all insurance plans to cover contraceptive and sterilization methods, including the morning-after pill. The decision came after passionate lobbying by religious groups and liberals from the likes of Planned Parenthood, amid government promises of compromise.

[...]

Practicing this kind of compulsion is routine and noncontroversial within Ms. Sebelius's ministry. That may explain why her staff didn't notice that the birth-control rule abridges the First Amendment's protections for religious freedom. Then again, maybe HHS thought the public had become inured to such edicts, which have arrived every few weeks since the Affordable Care Act passed.

Bad call. The decision has roused the Catholic bishops from their health-care naivete, but they've been joined by people of all faiths and even no faith, as it becomes clear that their own deepest moral beliefs may be thrown over eventually. Contraception is the single most prescribed medicine for women between 18 and 44 years old, and nine of 10 insurers and employers already cover it. Yet HHS still decided to rub it in the face of religious hospitals.

[...]

The White House is now trying to cauterize the political damage and saying it is open to some "compromise" on its own contraception decision. But the rule is already final. HHS tried to sell it as a compromise when it was announced, and in any case HHS would revive this coercion whenever it is politically convenient some time in Mr. Obama's second term. Religious liberty won't be protected from the entitlement state until ObamaCare is repealed. [The Wall Street Journal, 2/8/12]

Hannity: This Is A "War On Religion." On the February 7 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity said of the HHS rule, "Do we all agree this is an assault on the First Amendment, freedom of religion, a war on religion? Am I wrong?" [Fox News, Hannity, 2/7/12, via Media Matters]

Stuart Varney: Obama Is Telling Catholics, "You Must Abandon Your Faith, Or Abandon Charity." On the February 7 edition of Hannity, Fox Business host Stuart Varney said that "[i]t is cruel to tell Catholics that you must abandon your faith, or abandon charity. That is a cruel decision to place upon anybody":

VARNEY: I'll go further, and I'll be harsher. I think this is a cruel and arrogant move on the part of the president. It is cruel to tell Catholics that you must abandon your faith, or abandon charity. That is a cruel decision to place upon anybody. [Fox News, Hannity, 2/7/12, via Media Matters]

For more examples of right-wing media portraying President Obama as anti-Catholic, click here.

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