Santorum: 'Mr. President, We're Not That Stupid'

February 7, 2012 - 9:30 AM
Santorum

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks at The Cable Center in Denver, Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

(CNSNews.com) - On the campaign trail in Golden, Colo., Monday, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum flatly rejected the Obama administration's claim that it is working with religious institutions to "allay" their concerns about a new Obamacare rule requiring some Catholic institutions and individuals to provide contraception coverage in their health insurance plans.

"Ha, that's just a bunch of poppycock,” Santorum said. “That’s just ridiculous. Look, Mr. President, we’re not that stupid. The Catholic Church has been arguing and negotiating this for a year, and the administration is saying, ‘Oh, it’s just a misunderstanding.’ It’s just a bunch of bull," Santorum said.

"They are folks who are trying to use their power to force people to do things that they believe they should do and that are right. And they don’t care about their religion. Look at the conscience clause protections, which are outrageous and discriminatory against people of faith. And guess what, they do provide some protections for some religious groups, just not Catholics.

"I’m not going to stand for it," Santorum added. "And I’m going to call them out on it. And they’d better change. And if they don’t, I’m going to make it an issue every day of this campaign.”

The Catholic Church teaches that contraception -- including sterilization and drugs that abort fertilized eggs -- is morally wrong and not permissible.

But at Monday's White House briefing, Obama spokesman Jay Carney said "women of all faiths, many faiths...need to have the same kind of coverage that all other American women have."

Carney noted that the Obamacare contraception rule does not apply to churches or houses of worship:

"So we will continue for the coming year -- as I think also was a little bit lost in the coverage of this -- to work with those religious institutions to try to implement this policy in a way that ensures that women have access to preventive care, but tries to allay the concerns of these institutions -- because we take very seriously people’s religious beliefs and their objections.  And that is the balance that we have sought in this policy, and it is the balance that we'll seek in these conversations going forward."

The contraceptive rule has outraged many Catholics, who say the rule may not apply to churches, but it does force Catholic hospitals, universities, and individual Catholic business owners, for example, to abide by a regulation that goes against their religious beliefs.

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney also campaigned against the Obamacare contraception rule on Monday, saying he's "distressed" as he watches President Obama infringe on Americans' First Amendment rights.

"The First Amendment to the Constitution provides the right to worship in the way of our own choice. This same administration said that churches and the institutions they run, such as schools, and let's say adoption agencies, hospitals -- that they have to provide for their employees free of charge contraceptives, morning-after pills -- in other words, abortive pills and the like -- at no cost. We must have a president who is willing to protect America's first right -- a right to worship God."

In a USA Today op-ed Monday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said "virtually all American women use contraception at some point in their lives." She said birth control can be "quite expensive," making it unaffordable for many women whose health plans don't cover it.

"The public health case for making sure insurance covers contraception is clear. But we also recognize that many religious organizations have deeply held beliefs opposing the use of birth control," Sebelius said.

"That's why in the rule we put forward, we specifically carved out from the policy religious organizations that primarily employ people of their own faith. This exemption includes churches and other houses of worship, and could also include other church-affiliated organizations."

Sebelius noted that 28 states already have laws requiring insurance plans to cover contraception, and eight of those states do not have religious exemptions.

"This is not an easy issue," Sebelius concluded. "But by carving out an exemption for religious organizations based on policies already in place, we are working to strike the right balance between respecting religious beliefs and increasing women's access to critical preventive health services."

As CNSNews.com has reported, Catholic Church leaders in recent weeks have read letters to their congregations, telling them the Obamacare contraception regulation violates the constitutional rights of Catholics and that the church will not comply with "this unjust law."