In their ongoing quest to make themselves look completely retrograde and ridiculous, House Republicans will hold a grandstanding hearing on the Administration’s birth control access rules tomorrow, featuring testimony from a leader of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Republican Darrell Issa, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, will convene a hearing tomorrow, “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?”
The lead witness is the Most Reverend William E. Lori, Roman Catholic Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty. Judging from Lori and the rest of the witness list, it’s obvious that Issa has posed what he considers to be a rhetorical question and lined up nine like-minded rhetoricians to answer it anyway. None of the religious groups supportive of the Obama administration will be heard from.
Lori has appeared at previous House Oversight Committee hearings before, and has criticized the birth control mandate, part of the free preventive services that insurance companies will be required to cover under the Affordable Care Act. But now, the birth control debate has been put front and center. Religious paternalism and the prioritizing of the beliefs of a few church leaders over women’s health will be on full display. Eight of the nine witnesses on the panel are, according to Sarah Posner, “Orthodox Christian, Catholic, and evangelical, and represent Christian institutions.” The many supporters among the religious community of the new accommodation on birth control will not be heard from, including prominent supporter Sister Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association.
This just looks like a ride off a cliff for Republicans. Americans support birth control by wide margins, and also support the concept of free contraception coverage as a preventive service. That includes Catholics, despite the bleatings of the USCCB. But Republicans inexplicably think they’ve found a winning issue here. Maybe every television station in America can pick up the hearing, so people understand that the modern Republican Party opposes birth control as an option for women.