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Does Pres. Obama risk alienating Catholic voters because of the birth control part of his health care law?
February 7th, 2012
03:10 PM ET

Does Pres. Obama risk alienating Catholic voters because of the birth control part of his health care law?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The Catholic Church is at odds with President Obama - which is not a comforting thought for Democrats in an election year.

And it all goes back to the president's health care law.

Catholic leaders are furious over a provision that requires all employers - including religious ones - to pay for contraceptives through health insurance plans.

This includes the birth control pill and Plan B.

Churches are exempt, but religious hospitals and schools must comply.

Critics say this provision violates their freedom of religion.

The Catholic Church opposes the use of contraceptives even though a large number of rank-and-file Catholics disagree.

Catholic leaders have called for protests and are asking the faithful to put political pressure on the administration. They say they will fight this thing out "with lawsuits, with court decisions, and maybe even in the streets."

Like we said, not what Mr. Obama needs in an election year.

Which is probably why the president's re-election campaign now says they're open to compromise.

David Axelrod tells MSNBC that they'll look for a way forward that "both guarantees women that basic preventive care that they need and respects the prerogatives of religious institutions."

There are 70 million Catholics in the U.S. and a lot of them live in critical swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Florida.

Back in 2008, President Obama won 54% of the Catholic vote.

Here’s my question to you: Does Pres. Obama risk alienating Catholic voters because of the birth control part of his health care law?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

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Filed under: 2012 Election
soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. Rick McDaniel

    Risk......no. He absolutely HAS alienated the Church, and I would expect them to challenge it in court.

    February 7, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  2. Karen, Idaho

    As a Catholic, I can tell you that most Catholic women do not want 20 kids and use birth control. It will be nice to have financial help to pay for this modern convenience. If medical plans can pay for Viagra, they can pay for birth control. Three cheers for President Obama's new plan.

    February 7, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  3. Tom in Desoto, Tx

    I was raised Catholic but found it to be repressive and not part of the 20th century. There hasn't been any enlightenment since. It's difficult to imagine such a draconian group being in favor of anything a Democrat would propose.

    February 7, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  4. David in Mississippi

    Only in public because behind closed doors most Catholics practice birth control.

    February 7, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  5. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Jack: Obama is walking on rice paper--and if the administration decides to enforce this portion of his health care law-–there will be a very significant price that Obama will have pay. An idea can turn to dust or magic--depending upon the talent that it brushes against--brush well Mr. President!

    February 7, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  6. Steve

    Politicians don't do well with religion. Advise to Obama stay away from conroversial religious beliefs, you can't satisfy everybody. It's a lose lose situation. I'm sure that the army chaplains aren't too happy about their directive from Obama. You can't order religious beliefs, especially if you're one of those that don't even go to church on Sundays. Bad move Mr President.

    February 7, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  7. Larry from Georgetown, Tx

    It's too late as he has already stirred the pot with several groups with the new healthcare law. Mr. Obama's only hope in the general election is if the supporters of Romney stay home and don't vote. History always repeats and the American people are fed up with the Presidents policies and playing favorites to the unions.

    February 7, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  8. Karl in Flint

    Hospitals and schools, unless they only hire Catholics. should not be exempt. When you have open employment, you are no different then any other business. Most of my fellow Catholics, that I know, use or have used birth control. It isn't, to my knowledge, that big of an issue for the membership as the Church wants to make of it. Considering the GOP outlook for the economy and the middle class, I don't think this will cause too many to jump the fence and vote GOP if they were for Obama before this came up.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  9. Loren

    Not since 1960 have American Catholics followed the dictates of their church when voting. Don't see them starting now, particularly since so many of them practice birth control, so they probably are grateful for the regulation.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  10. Debbie

    I hope so! Ron Paul 2012!

    February 7, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  11. Craig

    I dont think he risks much. The benefit is still paid through the insurance policy. With all the knuckle-draggers around here, I think birth control is really a good thing. Catholics, like all other faiths, practice their beliefs selectively and conveniently.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  12. open400

    I am a 55 year old Catholic and I can tell you that Catholics have been using birth control for years and never confess it as a sin. In fact, I never met a Catholic that said that they considered using birth control as a sin. Catholics are good at frowning at out of date church dogma Catholics treat birth control like they use to treat "No Meat on Friday.". Catholics value families and a jobs are important to families. Catholics also see Wall Street as a huge gold idol for people like Mitt Romney to worship and take advantage of people. Priests are terrible speakers at mass and when they harp about birth control, people just tune them out and think about the football games for the day. It is only the fanatical Evangelicals that take everything the minister says as 100% truthful and feel the need to ram that down someone else’s throat.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  13. Kim , Dodge City, Ks

    Catholics need to learn english comprehension. The law states that religious hospitals and schools, (i.e. employers) have a provision in their insurance to pay for contraceptives for employees if they request them. It doesn't say you have to use contraceptives or birth control pills. This is a perfect example of selective distortion by a church whose prime operating platform is fear and ignorance.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  14. sara (allentown pa)

    I' m a 60 yr old catholic woman and the catholic church is not in touch with reality. If these religious affiliated organizations accept any money from federal or state government their health plans should offer birth control. 10 -1 odds they offer drugs for erectile dysfunction!

    February 7, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  15. Pete from Florida

    No. This will only further alienate those who already dislike Obama, and wouldn't vote for him no matter what he says or does. Personally, I think if this issue is THE deciding factor for whether or not you vote for someone, your priorities are so out of whack that you shouldn't vote at all.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  16. Jim

    Catholic employees will not be asking for contraceptives. Non-Catholics might, and even those employed by the Catholic Church should be able to get the care they desire without their employer making judgments for them about what is right and wrong.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  17. Susan from Idaho

    He probably never had their votes. If he and Romney are the options they will probably skip going to the polls at all.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  18. mario

    church is just a business with cash

    February 7, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  19. Barb

    He already did! He lost 5 votes in this household alone.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  20. Jen - Louisiana Catholic

    No, because Catholics have sex out of marriage and use birth control. The group fighting it, is a minority within the Catholic Church.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  21. MJ, Deadwood, SD

    A sad but true example of government breaching the constitutional right to freedom of religion.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  22. Tim F.

    So much for the 1st Amendment. The Catholic Church should be protected under the freedom of expression clause. This should not be a government issue. It's no secret how the church feels about contraceptives. If you don't agree, don't work for them. Just more government intervention, and erosion of freedom and liberty.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  23. Carolyn

    Obama has already alienated Catholics and offended freedom of religion to suit his own beliefs. No institution run by a religious organization, whether Catholic or not, can be required by the State to violate its beliefs. Separation of Church and State is meant to keep the State out of the business of telling Churches what to do, not to keep religion out of our lives.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  24. Judith Sedtal

    This is just another example of the Catholic Church continuing war on women. If Obama gives in to the CC, I will more than disappointed.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  25. Richard Schonewolf

    You asked the wrong question Jack... Will Obama cave in on his principles for the Catholic voters??

    February 7, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  26. Kathy

    The Catholic vote is big, by all means. The Church will not give an inch on this issue. Colleges will close, hospitals will a follow in suit. No law can force a church to go against its teachings, and yes this would effect the President's re-election. He'd be wise to put it off to another time.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  27. Cal in CA

    I know a lot of Catholics who use birth control. I think most Catholics, and the ones I know, don't really care about the Vatican's hard line stances on some issues. Last time I checked, there were plenty of Christians who had unwanted pregnancies and had abortions also.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  28. Glenn

    The overwhelming majority, 98 percent, of sexually active Catholic women use a form of modern contraception. A distinct majority agree that this coverage should be available. The Catholic Church is either completely out of touch with it's members or is merely trying to score political points.

    Glenn
    Haymarket, VA

    February 7, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  29. Seana

    Of the Catholics I know, 54%+ use birth control and agree with the morning after pill under the correct circumstances, this includes the many Catholics in my family. They have no problem with President Obama's decision, but would like the Catholic Church to stay out of this private part of their lives.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  30. Dave Dubinsky

    The Right will do whatever it takes to defeat President Obama in 2012. 98% of American Catholics practice birth control, against Catholic teaching. The President, or the Affordable Health Care Act, is not dictating what Catholics, or any other group, "must" do with regard to options under an Act that provides desperately health care services to millions of Americans. Each individual may choose the health care services that they determine is best, for them.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  31. Beau

    Yes, even if most catholics do not object to the use of contraceeptives, we do object to the destruction of our rights. This goes into the much larger issue of religious liberty and our freedom to act in accordance with our conscious. No government should be allowed to force people, of any faith, to do something against their religion. It is wrong and the president is naive to think it won't hurt him come November.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  32. JoAnna

    If it is against your religion don't use it, just because it is in your health care package doesn't mean you don't have a chose.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  33. scott from canada

    I have been raised catholic and I see no problem at all with birth control. Obama is safe on this topic I would think. Truthfully the catholic church has a lot larger problems with all the bad press on priests and sex scandals with children. If they don't make some changes, the church is just going to keep losing followers.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  34. larry dillon

    I personally think the presidents health plan is fine as far as this particular subject is concern.But yes,i do believe the president will need to compromise with the catholics.Don't take this part away from everybody else who believe birth control is the smart way to go.So once again a compromise is needed.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  35. Paul

    95% of the Catholic rank and file practices birth control and they would be upset with this? They'd be hypocrites to go after Obama on this issue. What they should do is go after the church leadership and say: hey how about updating this to conform to our current situation?

    February 7, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  36. Bonnie Murphy

    I am not a bit alienated. Most of us Catholics have enough God given common sense to ignore most of what those so-called leaders say anyway....

    February 7, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  37. shar

    I believe the catholic church has had a hard time keeping it’s younger members interested in its backward ways. Many may be catholic in name only but are way smarter to follow blindly.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  38. Michael in Albuquerque, NM

    Does the Catholic church risk taxation for stickings its nose into American politics? YES!!!
    The fact is most Catholics ignore the churches teaching on birth control, and most other doctrines. So, Obama is not risking anything by putting reality over mysticism.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  39. Luis

    As somebody who grow up catholic, I wish the catholic church would have had this conviction, passion , and self righteous outrage when it came to protecting all those innocent kids and parents from the predatory priest whose trust and faith they took advantage of.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  40. Lynn C

    I think Pres. Obama is right to protect the rights of women. I am Catholic and feel the church has done a poor job protecting the rights of women. The only way the Vatican can control us is by using politics and government law rather than convincing us in church.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  41. Sharon Halstead

    I hope not. The Catholic Church needs to listen to its own members on this issue and overturn its antiquated policies regarding birth control. This is the 21st century and the earths population is already straining existing resources. I hope this legislation hastens a debate within the Catholic Church as its long overdue. Sharon in Atoka, TN

    February 7, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  42. Lee

    The Catholic church has no credibility. If they want to be outraged about something, why aren't they outraged about those inappropriate, exploitative priests they've been harboring all these years? Why aren't they outraged about that?

    February 7, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  43. Ed in California

    Only the ones who were born here.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  44. PatAnn

    Yes, Obama risks losing big supporters like myself. Even if I was not Catholic, I would oppose this move due to separation of church and state. We have not liked ministers who cross the line into politics and politicians, mostly GOP, who have wanted to narrow the separation of church and state. I never thought a Democratic president would be so insensitive to cross the line and demand a church accept the government's doctrine instead of the church's own doctrine. Come on, Obama, you have crossed a line and that should not have happened.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  45. Murray

    It just shows you that today's organized religion is nothing more than Big Business in disguise. Like any of today's Big Business they like to receive public funds yet they still tell the taxpayer to stay out of their affairs.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  46. AnnaMaria44

    Certainly! The issue has united, energized, and mobilized Catholics- conservative, moderate, and liberal.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  47. Andrew Carlile

    Every tax payer pays for something they don't like.

    I'm sure my health insurance payments pay for some stuff I will never use but can't opt out of.

    Salt Lake City, Utah

    February 7, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  48. Carl F

    From Daytona Beach, FL –

    Jack, it's a long way between now and November. I predict that most Catholics who are upset with this decision will reconcile their feelilngs and again vote for Obama as the economy continues to improve and we bring our combat troops home from Afghanistan.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  49. C. Smith

    If the religious groups want to assert policy for the public. They should be responsible for paying taxes on those properties that they claim as tax free. It is only be fair.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  50. Bill

    Yes. I am a practicing Catholic, unaffiliated with a political party and feel that the Catholic Church’s teaching on birth control is too restrictive. I have also been undecided on who to vote for. However, this recent ruling severly infringes on religious freedon and it weighs very heavily against my voting for Obama. Even if the administration develops a “compromise”, it is very telling on where he wants to take the country and I don’t want to go there.

    Bill
    Wilmington, DE

    February 7, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  51. Nancy Rushon

    Hi Jack From Canada !
    We here in Canada have our health insurance pd by our gov't which includes birth
    Control . I'm Catholic but it is still up
    To individual to practice their own beliefs . I don't see the Vatican upset with our Gov't for including birth control in our coverage. Wow I never thought I'd see the day Canada was more progressive in our thinking than Americans.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  52. Toni Lehman

    Why have we not heard from any female Catholic leaders on this issue which affects women's health? It is uncomfortable and disturbing that the decision makers and mouthpieces in the Catholic church are without exception white, elderly males speaking to the issue of womens contraception. This issue affects young, multinational women coming from many varied backgrounds. The Catholic church should drop the old fashioned stance and let the voice of its female members be heard. Especially in these hard economic times when many familis are struggling to put food on the table their children.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  53. M. P. Anthony, Charlotte, NC

    Yes, Pres. Obama does risk alienating Catholic voters because of the birth control part of his health care law.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  54. Tim

    What has happened to critical thinking in America? This is not a referendum on contraception or abortion nor is it an opinion poll on whether or not Catholics in America agree with Church teaching. This is about freedom of religion. What the Obama Administration has done is an attack on the First Amendment of the Constitution. Simply put, this undermines the freedom of all religious organizations, not just the Catholic Church. We should all be outraged!

    February 7, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  55. Jane in CA

    Not even all Roman Catholics agree with the Bishop's position. The church as church is exempt from the rules. The church as big business is not. Most Catholics can see the distinction. I expect that the ones who can't weren't the Obama voters to start with.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  56. A Fallen Catholic

    No one is dictating that someone has to use contraception. It is only a requirement that if someone chooses this, it will be covered by insurance... a very logical and sane approach. Would you rather deal with unwanted pregnancies after the fact? It's time that the ideologies of a minority be trumped by the realities of the majority.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  57. Keith McMahon

    I am a catholic and I hope with all my heart that Obama does not give in on the birth control thing. The reason for this is it could be the deciding factor in his reelection and I also hope for the good of this country we can hold his destruction to 4 years..
    Keith

    February 7, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  58. Ben

    How many Catholic families do you see these days with 10 children? Most Catholics pay about as much attention to the Church's dictate on birth control as they do to making their Easter Duty. While the Bishops and the GOP candidates may be up in arms and try to make it a big deal, the reality is that Catholics use birth control and its either a non-issue or they want the health coverage. When I attended Pre-Canna classes before getting married 30 years ago, the Catholic Church itself spent two of those sessions teaching about various methods of birth control. Seems like there is a lot of hypocrisy in the rants of the Bishops and politicians.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  59. Pat Miller

    Obama will lose the Catholic votes!!! What ever happen to Separation of Church and State??? The Govt Funds the Catholic Church and School ZERO..so why even think he can dictate laws of man against laws of God! Isnt abortion and sterilization included in this heath care law? Money is the reason so many Catholic Schools are Closing..the teachers benefits and pay along with building taxes, utilities and maintenance..has forced tuition to sky rocket and parents can not afford it!

    February 7, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  60. Terry in Virginia

    Many Catholics I know use birth control and will pay for it out of pocket if need be. However, it's the mandate that's turning off voters and not just Catholics.

    February 7, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  61. Adam

    No, I don't think he does. The more likely outcome is that the Catholic Church risks alienating their female congregation. I am all for Freedom of Religion but when an employer's Religion impacts their employee's healthcare, they need to take a step back and realize they are not in the 17th century anymore.

    February 7, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  62. jack

    The overwhelming majority of catholics practice or have practiced contraceptive family planning. However a slight majority of catholics think it is wrong to force the church to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees in their health coverage. There are about 70 million catholics in the U.S. I think Obama for political reasons should back down in this argument with the hierarchy.

    February 8, 2012 at 3:33 am |
  63. Joyce

    I doubt it because most of them now use birth control even if the church says no.

    February 8, 2012 at 7:48 am |
  64. Louis Guerin

    The Catholic bishops always have the option of closing all their schools, hospitals, universities if these are classified as businesses instaed of outreach ministries. Let the States deal with the massive overload!
    Louis in Florida

    February 8, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  65. keith Johnson

    They are always talking about the separation between church and state, but now when the government thinks something is fair or right it's ok for them to push their opinion on the Church.

    February 8, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  66. HJ - Saint Paul, MN

    Maybe, but I don't understand why. The law just makes it covered by insurance, it doesn't make people take it. Hes allowing people who want to work for religious organizations the ability to enjoy the healthcare the rest of us have, free from religious interference. The idea sounds completely reasonable to me. He should do what the Republicans do to everything else and equate it to jobs.

    February 8, 2012 at 1:07 pm |