Snap Fact #239
The Obama Administration Enforced Federal Mandate to Cover Free Contraceptives for Women!
Despite being criticized by religious groups and churches around the nation, the Obama Administration proposed a policy to help women get free birth control coverage, especially when their employers oppose the issue of birth control because of religious convictions. 

The government considers birth control as preventive care, and the President’s health care law requires health plans to cover prevention with no extra charge to their policyholders. 

Things came to a head when the administration enforced a federal mandate that women employees of many Roman Catholic hospitals, universities, and social service agencies that insure themselves will “have access to free coverage of contraceptives.”

While Catholic churches and other religious groups have been against contraception and President Obama’s support of birth control, many women’s groups across the country have applauded the government for their action. 

Specifically, there has been a great deal of resistance to President Obama’s plan, much of it coming from the Catholic Church through the American Bishops. However there is another side of the Catholic’s story. In early February 2012 U.S.A. Today reported that, “It is estimated that over 90% of Catholic women in America have used birth control products. And here's where the Catholic women come in. According to the Public Religion Research Institute poll …”

A majority (55%) of Americans agree that "employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost." Four-in-ten (40%) disagree with this requirement. 
But perhaps of greater note among election-watchers: Women are significantly more likely than men to agree that employers should be required to provide health care plans that cover contraception (62% vs. 47% respectively).

While many in the Catholic establishment hit Obama hard on this issue, Mitt Romney, smelling blood, lead a vigorous Republican attack on the President. The following article from the Observer is contemporaneous with the President’s announcement of his plan. Mitt Romney was only then emerging as the likely Republican nominee, with only Newt left as his last rival. 

Romney argued that the Obama administration sought to curtail religious freedom at the same time that it was defending its decision to require religious employers to cover birth control in employee health plans. Romney has said “I’m just distressed as I watch our president try and infringe upon our rights; the First Amendment of the Constitution provides the right to worship in the way of our own choice.” 

So we have an unsettled dynamic here. The President made a politically courageous stand that would obviously attract his enemies and hopefully embolden his allies. At some levels, this issue has erupted into a fight between the Church hierarchy and many lay Catholics. At the same time the Republican opposition has a divisive issue to exploit and beat up on the President with all their might. The wild card here is the American woman voter. For the most part, women have seen this as just one more proof that the Republicans are fighting to hold back and even reverse the rights that women have fought so hard for over the last century.
No one knows how it will turn out in the end but this issue provides another clear-cut difference between the candidates and their parties.