.- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has pledged to overturn the HHS contraception mandate that he says takes âparticular aimâ at Catholics.
âI stand with the Catholic bishops and all religious organizations in their strenuous objection to this liberty- and conscience-stifling regulation,â Romney wrote in a Feb. 3 Washington Examiner column titled âPresident Obama vs. religious libertyâ
If elected president, the former Massachusetts governor said, he would eliminate the mandate âon day one.â
âSuch rules donât belong in the America that I believe in.â
The mandate, announced on Jan. 20, requires employers to provide insurance coverage for FDA-approved sterilization procedures and contraceptive drugs, including some abortifacient drugs. The Department of Health and Human Services classified the procedures and drugs as âpreventive care.â
The religious exemption for the mandate would not cover most Catholic hospitals, universities, and charitable organizations, despite Catholic teaching that the use of these procedures and drugs is sinful and objectively immoral.
Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said that religious liberty is âfacing the most serious assault in generationsâ from âliberalism itself.â
He charged that the rule is âtaking particular aim at Roman Catholics.â
âThe Obama administration is forcing religious institutions to choose between violating their conscience or dropping health care coverage for their employees, effectively destroying their ability to carry on their work.â
Romney incorporated his pledge against the mandate into his general position against the 2010 health care legislation, which opponents call âObamacare.â He said he is committed to overturning it âroot and branchâ and will issue an executive order telling his Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue a waiver from its requirements to all U.S. states.
However, his columnâs dominant focus remained religious liberty.
Although liberals and conservatives have defended the rights of religious minorities in the past, Romney charged, that devotion to religious freedom âgoes out the windowâ for âthe agenda of the left-wing of the Democratic Party.â He linked the mandate to abortion on demand and opposition to abstinence education.
âThey would force Catholics and others who have beliefs rooted in their faith to sacrifice the teachings of their faith to the mandate of federal bureaucrats,â Romney said.
He also criticized the Obama administrationâs 12-month extension for religious groups to comply with the mandate, calling it âa clumsy attempt to push this matter past this yearâs presidential election.â
âThe America I believe in is governed by the U.S. Constitution and I will not hesitate to use the powers of the presidency to protect religious liberty,â Romney stated.
All four leading Republican presidential candidates have opposed the mandate.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a convert to Catholicism, charged that the mandate is part of a âwar against Christianity.â During his campaign in Florida, ahead of the state primary, he pledged to overturn all âanti-religiousâ federal policies on his first day in office.
At a Jan. 31 campaign stop in Colorado, Catholic and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum said the mandate makes people act against their faith.
âBarack Obama and Kathleen Sebelius said âToo bad. If it goes against what you believe, then you believe the wrong things,ââ Santorum said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
âThis is just the tip of the iceberg of what we can expect.â
In an October statement on his website, Texas Congressman Ron Paul said the mandate âviolates the conscience of millions of pro-life Americans.â He said he views the âregulatory overstepâ as âpayback to Planned Parenthood and big pharmaceutical companies for their support of Obamacare.â