GOP Hopefuls Remain Mum on New Birth Control Mandates

Wednesday, 27 Aug 2014 12:10 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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The latest changes in the Obamacare birth control mandate introduced last week have been met with silence from Republican Senate candidates in close races, The Hill reported.

The accommodations allow religious nonprofits to opt out of paying for birth control for female employees while still ensuring those employees have access to contraception.

The United States will start allowing faith-affiliated charities, colleges, and hospitals to notify the government, rather than their insurers, that they object to birth control coverage on religious grounds.

But GOP Senate hopefuls have remained mum on the new measure, which took effect immediately, while a dozen Republican campaigns all declined to comment, The Hill said.

The Senate candidates facing tough elections are talking a cautious approach on the controversial birth control issue ahead of the midterm elections, while senators in safe seats have attacked the new measures along with outside groups, The Hill reported.

Republican advisers warn that by speaking out against the changes, vulnerable candidates are risking the wrath of female voters while Democrats are hoping to use any criticism of the new rules to attack the GOP for an alleged "war on women."

"There is no need to draw attention to an issue that is so down in the weeds, so deep in the minutiae, that could spoil an entire Senate campaign," GOP strategist Ford O'Connell said, according to The Hill.

"Republicans recognize ... that they shouldn't be discussing birth control right now unless they can be on offense. Democrats are looking for any opportunity to mobilize women, and they know how to make one candidate's comment play in every race."

The new regulations, said to be the mandate's eighth revision, allow nonprofits to inform the Department of Health and Human Services of their religious objections. The government will then arrange contraception coverage for the employees with insurers and third-party administrators, according to The Washington Post.

The administration will also allow a similar accommodation to for-profit businesses covered under the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling that closely held firms can refuse contraception coverage due to their religious beliefs.

The new measures have been attacked by the Catholic Church, which claims that despite the extra government step, the rules still mean that a religious institution has to be involved in a process that ends in birth control coverage.

"The regulations would only modify the 'accommodation,' under which the mandate still applies and still requires provision of the objectionable coverage," said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, according to The Hill.

An analysis from the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said, "The administration has set itself up as the grand inquisitor, determining who is religious enough to merit the government's benevolence and who is not."

The Hill reported that the group’s president, Russell Moore, said in a statement, "What we see here is another revised attempt to settle issues of religious conscience with accounting maneuvers."

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