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Obama Accused of “Bullying Nuns” in the Battle Over the Birth Control Mandate

Obama Accused of “Bullying Nuns” in the Battle Over the Birth Control Mandate

The rhetoric around the requirement that all insurance plans offer no co-pay birth control has become so heated, that President Barack Obama has been accused of bullying nuns.

It’s been a favorite talking point of the right ever since Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor gave a last minute injunction on a lawsuit by Little Sisters of the Poor asking that they be exempt from the birth control mandate. Of all the groups involved in the enjoined mandate, the Little Sisters are the ones most embraced in the social conservative echo chamber because, after all, who would want to harm nuns?

“Obama is bullying nuns!” declared Chuck Norris (no, really). “Quit bullying nuns!” agrees the Becket Fund, who is defending the non-profit in court. “Obama continues to bully Catholic nuns!” chimes in Kansas Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp who, most ironically, has no issue with himself going to clinics and trying to bully patients out of having abortions.

The “bullying” meme is a purposefully crafted one, and no doubt the reason that it is the Little Sisters who are the face of the lawsuit, and not any of the other participants involved, such as Priests for Life. When the injunction was announced, the anti-abortion, anti-birth control religious non-profit touted on their website: ”Our lawsuit was among the very first ones in the country and the necessity to launch it shows that religious freedom in America is in grave danger. We have to take action.” Priests for Life sued the administration in February of 2012, then again in August of 2013. Little Sisters, on the other hand, didn’t sue until the end of September.

But pro-life priests obviously don’t have the same optics as strong-arming sweet little old ladies, which is no doubt why they have been set forth as the faces of religious liberty and victims of government oppression. Even when the entirety of that oppression is really just signing one slip of paper, a move that the administration says is actually an expression of religious freedom since it’s in essence nothing more than a public declaration of faith.

Besides the accusations of bullying, birth control opponents have managed to skew the media perception of the issue their way in other instances. Right wing pundits purposefully, repeatedly and mistakenly refer to emergency contraception as “abortion pills” and birth control pills as “abortifacients,” but even more disturbing is mainstream media’s refusal to clarify that birth control isn’t free, but rather no additional co-pay.

“Under the health care law, most health insurance plans have to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives as preventive care for women, free of cost to the patient,” writes the Associated Press earlier this week, in a remarkably misleading statement. In reality, contraceptives are covered by the insured person’s payment to the insurance company. It is as “free of cost” as a well child exam or any other benefit that insurance provides when you pay your monthly fee.

As for those nuns, as Jessica Mason Pieklo writes, they were never really in any sort of danger, be it via bullying or by having their religious freedom impugned. Mason Pieklo calls out the “hyperbolic hand-wringing by pundits over the Obama administration’s efforts to force nuns onto the pill. Add the fact that the nuns have absolutely nothing to lose in this case, and the crusade [to infinitely expand religious objections] becomes even more apparent.”

“Hyperbolic handwringing?” It’s almost as if the right wing has once more staged a massive media stunt to undermine the administration’s attempts to get high quality, affordable health care to the vast majority of Americans. In other words, it’s the return of “death panel” rhetoric, but this time, they’ve got the nuns as their media stars.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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184 comments

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2:19PM PDT on Apr 4, 2014

Oh Sarah H. Yet you have no problem forcing women to carry an unwanted or medically dangerous pregnancy to term. Since no other conservatives seem to be able to answer this, maybe you can...... who will take care of these forced births? You? But yet let's destroy the very programs that many have to use to survive with extra mouths to feed & shelter to give. And you want to ban Contraceptives? What the Hell are women supposed to do? Abstinence? HAHA-yeah, let me know how that works out for you guys.
You don't agree with abortion? Don't have one!
You don't agree with contraceptives? Don't use them!
I don't agree with erectile dysfunction drugs & procedures! So I won't use them!
Simple! (like you)

11:45AM PST on Jan 19, 2014

Sarah H~~

No one is forcing anyone to be in any business. But, if you want to be in a business, you have to abide by the rules.
What if I am a Christian Scientist? Can I hand my employees the books of Mary Baker Eddy and call that their health care coverage?

8:52AM PST on Jan 19, 2014

Sarah no one has forced the Nuns tto ake Birth conrol. they arent being forced toDO anything. The poiicy they have simply alsp pays for Birth control. Unless they are SELF insured they dodnt get to dictate to insurnace companies they dodnt own

3:35AM PST on Jan 19, 2014

No one should be forced to go against their religious beliefs, not the Little Sisters, not Hobby Lobby, not any one!

11:34AM PST on Jan 15, 2014

So what! I don't want my boss, boyfriend, father, mother or a damn nun telling me I cannot get BC. Good for POTUS

7:55AM PST on Jan 14, 2014

Thanks for the read..

4:25AM PST on Jan 14, 2014

nuns ARE bullies, they stand over children ready to beat them for so little as writing with their left hand, they screech that children are going to hell because of things their parents do or did or because they touched themselves, or dog forbid played post office! *gasp!*

what kind of sadistic, frustrated, hateful person allows herself to be used as a tool to intimidate others at the behest of a fascist dictator?

These women who everyone thinks do such great works, go to other countries to belittle,bully, pursuade, cajole and coerce others into their way of thinking, it's called BRAINWASHING.

They're sycophantic hate mongers and their "complaint" that signing a piece of paper is against their religion is a turd from a twat!

9:23AM PST on Jan 13, 2014

The Little Sisters of the Poor and others of the same mindset need to take another civics class. The USA is a civil democracy. They are free to worship as they please but they are not free to pick and choose which laws they wish to obey. This hysterical drive to control women's reproductive systems is making me extremely weary indeed.

6:16AM PST on Jan 13, 2014

Thanks.

3:52AM PST on Jan 13, 2014

Thank you for sharing.

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