Conservatives are scrambling to stop the shedding of women supporters now that the magnitude of their political miscalculation in attacking contraception has become apparent. That means we can expect a big push to reframe this debate again as one of religious liberty, and it also means we can expect a lot of money behind that reframing as the Republican establishment goes into crisis management mode on contraception.
We’ve already seen the Catholic Bishop’s eagerness to find ways of exploiting campaign finance laws. Now a collection of conservative leaders including many from the former Bush administration have founded an advocacy group to push for measures exempting religious organizations from the federal contraception mandate.
Those involved in the new anti-contraception 501(c)(4) organization, named Conscience Cause, include former presidential adviser Mary Matalin, a former Republican National Committee Chairman, a former Boston Mayor and ambassador to the Vatican, among others. The group’s sole stated purpose is to stop “the implementation of a Department of Health and Human Services regulation which would compel people and organizations to pay for drugs and services that violate their faith.”
This broad statement of purpose is of course the same exact sentiment behind the Blunt Amendment, so it’s hard to see what this group will accomplish aside from funneling dollars into this debate. Religious institutions are already exempt from the contraception mandate while secular employers are not.
Again, conservatives seem to have a difficult time understanding that their free exercise of religious rights cannot, in a secular society, go so far as to become an imposition of their faith on another person. That is the balance struck in the First Amendment and in the religious exercise jurisprudence. But that’s exactly what this movement is about, and no amount of “reframing” can change that.
Photo from Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via flickr.