COMMENTARY | With the Obama administration’s attempt health care coverage to everyone through the Affordable Care Act, they are also attempting to require all insurers to provide coverage for birth control pills. This new legislation has proven to be highly unpopular Among some members of faith groups whom oppose birth control, such as the Catholic Church.
Political candidates running for the Republican nomination have been using this issue against the president in an attempt to influence voters in their favor. Among the Republican candidates, Rick Santorum has come out as the most vocal opponent. He claims that the proposed bill is in violation of religious freedom as the government is “forcing” insurers and employers to cover birth control, even if they don’t support it. Others in opposition to the bill use the argument that it would essentially force others on a health care plan to pay for something that isn’t necessarily medically necessary, thus potentially driving up the prices for health insurance.
What has stood out about this new legislation is the way in which the political conversation has shifted. When Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown Law School student testified before Congress, many right-wing pundits responded with some very colorful language. Rush Limbaugh was one of the more notable ones, calling her a “slut.” The issue and the language used to describe it could make or break Obama’s reelection chances, depending on how the president responds.
Two things could potentially happen with these attacks. Obama could reference the language coming from the right-wing pundits to strengthen his case for re-electing him and the bill he is proposing by pointing to this as an example of political extremism from the right. He would then respond by saying that the left is against the attacks on the right. Or, people may see the attacks and be swayed away from the right and toward the left automatically because they recognize the level of extremism.
Another scenario could be that the attacks are seen by the right-wing as a sign of “strength” coming from their political leaders. There is an unwritten rule in politics that whomever screams the loudest is the winner. The overwhelming majority of Americans strongly believe in religious freedom as a fundamental right, so Americans will be more willing to respond to those arguments favorably.
Rick Santorum has been winning the southern “bible belt” states, most likely because the values-based argument appeals to those voters.
However, the real challenge for the republican party will be to defeat the Obama campaign after using their attacks against the birth control argument. In the public’s mind, the right will be seen as either group of extremists ready to attack all forms of change, or rare display of family values not typically seen by politicians.