Mitt Romney has launched a petition accusing the Obama administration of “using Obamacare to impose a secular vision on Americans who believe that they should not have their religious freedom taken away.” The move is the latest in a concerted campaign effort to rally the conservative base around a supposed “war against religion” and misrepresent or outright lie about a new regulation requiring employers and insurers to offer contraception coverage.
“We must have a president who is willing to protect America’s first right, a right to worship God, according to the dictates of our own conscience,” Romney told an audience of nearly 3,000 people in Colorado. “We’ll either have a government that protects religious diversity and freedom, or we’ll have a government that tells us what kind of conscience they think we ought to have.” But Romney’s new-found outrage is a stark contrast from his record as Massachusetts governor, when he tacitly endorsed a very similar coverage mandate and greatly expanded government-funded contraceptive services.
In 2002 — the very same year Romney campaigned for governor of Massachusetts — the state enacted a “contraceptive equity” law that required insurers that provide outpatient benefits to cover hormone replacement therapy and all FDA-approved contraceptive methods. Similar to the Obama regulation, the law exempted “an employer that is a church or qualified church-controlled organization” from the requirement and the legislature soundly defeated an amendment that “would have allowed affiliated institutions such as hospitals, universities, and nursing homes to deny their employees coverage.” The defeated amendment closely mirrors the expanded conscience protections religious groups are now clamoring for.
Romney remained mum on the requirement — which passed unanimously in the Senate and in a 140 to 16 vote in the House — and pledged to maintain the status quo on family-planning related policy throughout his gubernatorial campaign. He even promised to expand access to emergency contraception and restore state funding for family-planning and teen pregnancy prevention programs.
After all, before deciding to run for President, Romney had been a strong supporter of expanding public access to birth control. In 2007, the Boston Globe reported that “Romney’s wife, Ann, made a $150 contribution to Planned Parenthood in 1994, the year Romney ran for Senate as a candidate supporting abortion rights” from “the Romneys’ joint checking account.” And in 2005, he “signed a bill that could expand the number of people who get family-planning services, including the morning-after pill.” Romney even pressured the state Department of Health and Human Services to issue regulations that required Catholic hospitals to issue the morning after pill to rape victims, despite initially vetoing the bill and claiming that the pill constituted an “abortifacient.”
But perhaps his greatest contribution to expanding the public availability of birth control came from his health care reform law. The state’s Commonwealth Care, which offers subsidized, low or no-cost insurance program for low-income residents without access to employer-sponsored health insurance, offers primary and preventive care that includes “family planning services” and prescription contraceptives.