Over the past couple of weeks, Republican candidates on the campaign trail and in legislatures all over the country, in an egregious lapse in judgement, have decided to disrespect one of the most important voting demographics: women. When the Department of Health and Human Services announced a mandate requiring that all employers, with the exception of churches, provide preventative services for women, including contraception, through their health insurance plans, a veritable firestorm erupted among faith based organizations. Citing the First Amendment, many, the most prominent being representatives of the Catholic Church, claimed that such requirements infringed on their religious liberty. All of the Republican politicians, in their attempts to bolster their credentials with Christian conservatives, aggressively supported this flagrant attack on religious freedom and the rights of women in this country.
The Republican storm did not end with President Obama’s attempt to conciliate this minority view by proposing to transfer the costs to insurance companies. Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri introduced an amendment that would have allowed any employer to opt out of any healthcare service that they found objectionable on moral grounds. Incredulously, this amendment was only narrowly defeated by four votes.
Socially conservative Republicans in many state legislatures continue to blur the lines between church and state with the introduction of laws that basically legislate their own personal ideas of morality and provide a means for government interference in the private healthcare matters of women. Virginia, Texas, Utah and South Carolina, have all passed anti-choice legislation that places an undue burden on women seeking access to services that are protected under the right to privacy. None of these procedural mandates claim to provide any medical benefit; they have been passed solely to inject the religious right’s agenda into the provision of medical services.
If Republicans continue to focus on a socially conservative platform that appeals to a religious albeit vocal minority and ignore issues that are relevant to the majority, they will lose elections all over the country in November. The increasing cost of healthcare is an issue that affects everyone regardless of religious ideology. A mandate that provides preventative healthcare services at a low cost is not only compassionate, but economically smart in the long run. While the Obama administration explores ways to cut spiraling healthcare costs, the Republicans focus on ways to undermine privacy laws and deny people access to the services that they struggle to pay for each month.