POLL: Birth Control Fight About Faith or Freedom?

NH House passes resolution against Obama health care law provisions.

UPDATED – 3:20 p.m Feb. 22 – with House Minority Leader Terie Norelli's statement below.

House Speaker Bill O'Brien, R-Mont Vernon, and House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, R-Salem, said House Resolution 29 "instructs Congress to protect churches from being forced to purchase services, such as health insurance policies, that offend religious faith."

The O'Brien-sponsored resolution, which passed 227 to 121 today, is stoking partisan fires in this election year. Democrats say it's the opposition party trying to attack a woman's right to birth control. Republicans say it's about the Constitution.

WHAT do you think? Let us know in the comments section below and take our poll: Which way would you vote?

In a statement after the vote, here's what the House Speaker had to say:

"House Resolution 29 is not about the merits of contraception. It is not about whether insurers choose to offer coverage for these services in their policies. It also is not about the Catholic Church’s policies on contraception, sterilization or any other of its teachings or beliefs. Rather, HR 29 stands up for our religious institutions that have long-held principles and teachings under assault by a president and his ideology that seeks not merely to reject, but to tear down our liberties.

“Whether these groups would be forced to buy this coverage directly, as ordered by the original ObamaCare regulation, or indirectly, as suggested by the Obama Administration’s replacement accounting gimmick, the idea that a religious group would be compelled to buy a service that it finds morally repugnant and an express renunciation of its beliefs is both contrary to our values and unconstitutional.”

And the House Majority Leader, Bettencourt, a co-sponsor of the resolution:

"House leadership introduced House Resolution 29 to defend New Hampshire’s long and proud history of religious tolerance, while pushing back against the deeply flawed law known as ObamaCare. The new mandate from the Obama administration requiring religious organizations to offer insurance coverage for practices that go against the teachings and tenets of their faith is an unnecessary, cynical and unconstitutional attack on religious institutions. To those who say HR29 detracts from this legislature’s focus on New Hampshire’s economy, let us remind them this issue highlights a critical issue facing our economy, the effect of mandates on the cost of health insurance.

“Health insurance costs in New Hampshire are increasing at dramatic rates. New Hampshire businesses are seeing 60% premium increases. A considerable portion of those increases can be chalked up to state health insurance mandates implemented during the prior four years’ Democrat legislatures and those need to be repealed.  We don’t need new federal mandates to drive the costs even higher. Earlier this legislative session, we passed legislation that repealed seven insurance mandates and this has helped small businesses to escape some cost increases. The extra savings from premiums may even mean there is more money in the pockets of our small businesses to create more jobs. This is the right way to reform the health care industry.  Imposing anti-religious regulations on churches, under the guise of ‘women’s rights,’ achieves no reduction of costs or availability of services and serves only to please leftist ideologues."

Democrats were quick to weigh in. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat running for governor, released this statement:

"It is outrageous that Speaker Bill O’Brien and his Tea Party legislature are trying to sneak through laws to restrict women’s access to contraception and basic health care. I strongly urge the legislature to reject this infringement on a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.  As governor, I will make sure that women are able to exercise their own judgment on personal health care issues. Why is Ovide Lamontagne still silent on this critical issue for New Hampshire’s women and families."

New Hampshire House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli issued this statement:

“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does not violate any citizen’s basic right to religious freedom. Churches are exempt and insurance companies, not the organization affiliated with a church, will be required to pay for birth control costs. No individual will be forced to buy or use contraception.

“The reality is that in the United States, birth control use is widely accepted and contraceptive drugs are commonly prescribed for other health reasons. Do not let anyone fool you! This is about birth control and nothing else. It is about allowing women to make the decisions that are right for themselves and their families.”

Former State Sen. Jackie Cilley, a Democratic candidate for governor, also issued a statement, saying:

"In a continuation of attacks on the women of New Hampshire, including the removal of adequate protections against domestic violence, the NH House passed HR 29 to require Congress to allow employers to deny healthcare coverage for contraction. In another amendment attached to a non-germane bill, the House is attempting to unravel 13 years of bipartisan support for healthcare coverage for contraception."

State Rep. Sandra Keans, a co-sponsor of legislation in 1999 that enacted a policy in the state requiring insurance companies to cover prescriptions to also provide coverage for contraception, offered this statement on the passage of House Resolution 29:

"This Resolution, while it is couched in constitutional clothes, is nothing less than an attack on basic health care - not just women’s health care - but also an attack on family health care. It suggests we as politicians can make better health decisions for individuals and families than they can themselves with their doctors.”

“The story is the same today as it was in 1999 when I co-sponsored legislation to provide this same coverage. It was the right thing to provide for family care then; it is the right thing to do today. It was not a partisan issue then. It should not be a partisan issue today.

Barbara Rimkunas February 22, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Freedom from other people's religion is a right, too. LDS kids working at a supermarket seem comfortable selling iced tea to customers. The health mandate does not force anyone to use contraceptives, it provides access. Please allow people to make their own choices.
Nicole February 22, 2012 at 07:12 PM
You're comparing apples to oranges. The LDS kid might sell it but they're not forced to PAY for it. And furthermore, the LDS kid isn't forced to buy iced tea for themselves.
Edward Dunsel February 22, 2012 at 07:42 PM
I'm a Muslim employer. My religion considers it to be a mortal sin if someone marries outside their religion. Therefore, the insurance I offer to my employees will not be available to those who marry outside their religion. If that was the scenario, Republicans would be falling all over themselves to declare Islam to be illegitimate. I'm an employer who doesn't believe in premarital sex. So MY insurance plan wont cover Viagra for unmarried men. Macho posturers like Congressional Republicans, and OBrien and Bettancourt would be crying like stuck pigs and preaching from Lush Rimbaugh's book of Feminazis. The religion argument is just BS. Catholic preaching for the last 50 years has been "dont use birth control." Survey after survey says that most catholic women are not heeding the preacher. so the Church is turning to the government to do its bidding for it. There's only two groups of people in this country who thinks that the best time in history for women was the 1950s -- Catholics and Republicans. So they've joined forces to try and re-create that glorious time. Meanwhile, the Founding Fathers are rolling in their graves.
Joe Baillargeon February 22, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Barbara, I don't see that this resolution is restricting anyone from walking into the store, pulling out their wallet and paying for contraceptives.
Kim Kojak February 22, 2012 at 09:35 PM
This entire scenerio only reinforces the need for a single payer, citizen run health care system. It is obvious that employer controlled health care simply does not work. In this economy, employees must put up with ever dwindling coverage due to a lack of competition in the workforce. Like pay, employers take advantage of the economy and women, who still earn .70 cents for every dollar a man makes, seem to be an easy target. Birth control is part of a women's comprehensive health care and well being. So, where are all the jobs this bill is going to create? We need responsible leaders in Concord who create legislation that is not dictated from the conservative republican handbook. New Hampshire residents deserve better.
Frank Ferraro February 22, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Again, people and politicians are trying to turn this into an issue about a religious organization PREVENTING women from having ACCESS to birth control. This is pure spin and is not what this is all about. This is all about who pays for these services. Women working for institutions owned by religious organizations have ALWAYS had access to contraceptives. They just had to pay for them themselves or get them from a family planning clinic. The recent “compromise” by President Obama is a charade. First, do you think that the insurance companies are just going to reach into their profits and pay for contraceptives for women that work at these institutions? No, the insurance companies will build it into their premiums, at least some of which are paid by these same religious organizations. Second, some of these church-owned institutions are self-insured, so Obama’s “compromise” would force the church to pay for the contraceptives. Finally, the “compromise” was an executive decision. If Obama is re-elected President in November, nothing would stop him from dropping the “compromise” since he no longer needs Catholic voters. This is about forcing a religious organization to pay for a service that is against their fundamental belief. Women working for those organizations will continue to have access to contraceptives as they ALWAYS have.
Edward Dunsel February 22, 2012 at 10:23 PM
First of all, not all contraceptive medication is for birth control. Anyone with a wife, daughter or mother who has ever had any one of a number of hormonal issues could tell you that. Of course, if the House GOP didn't restrict the testimony last week to old white men, they would have heard that. Second of all, maybe in Preston Hollow or Greenwich those who aren't covered can simply "reach into their pockets" and pay for it themselves, but for many people, no insurance coverage means no purchase. So answer the question, Selectman Ferraro......if the employer in question is a Muslim organization could it carve out an exception for coverage of things deemed counter to their religion? And what other "morals clause" medical care can the Church deem to withhold. Oooh, they could just go to a family planning clinic. A family planning clinic!!! You mean like the ones the insane clown posse-wing of the GOP keep trying to close down. The hypocrisy is astounding.
Edward Dunsel February 22, 2012 at 10:29 PM
And by the way, this particular piece of 'legislation' isn't restricted to birth control. It extends to ANYthing that "offends religious faith." The irony of course is that Bettencourt is coming to the aid of the Church when it was less than a year ago that he called Roman Catholic Bishop John McCormack a "pedophile pimp." But I guess all's fair when it comes to keeping women "in their place."
Don Duston February 22, 2012 at 10:55 PM
@Kim. I could not agree more, that a move to a single payer system is long overdue.
D.J. Bettencourt February 22, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Hi Kim, I'm glad you mentioned jobs. The Department of Employment Security showing that the unemployment rate statewide dropped to 5.2%, as the number of employed residents increased by 3,050. Most notable in the data is the fact that, in November, there were 707,960 New Hampshire residents working, the highest number since December of 2008, at the start of the recession, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, the total labor force increased by 2,030, a sign that discouraged workers are reentering the job market. Nationally, the unemployment rate dropped because over 300,000 Americans got discouraged and gave up trying to find work. In New Hampshire, we bucked that national trend and over 2,000 workers rejoined the work force. With over 3,000 new jobs created last month alone, we now have more people working statewide since the recession began. This shows that the strong business environment of lower taxes and sensible regulation that the Legislature is building gives employers across the state the confidence to add jobs. New Hampshire is sending a message to the nation for getting our economy moving again, without big government stimulus packages or bailouts but instead with sound fiscal policy. However, with over 38,000 of our friends and neighbors unemployed, we still have work to do.
ForThePeople February 22, 2012 at 11:45 PM
I like how he didn't answer the question of how this misogynistic, theocratic agenda creates jobs.
Frank Ferraro February 23, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Ed (Captain?) Dunsel You are correct that I over simplified the issue by restricting it to just contraceptives. I should have been more thorough in my description. Nonetheless, it doesn't change the point I was trying to make. As for your question, I will try to answer it, although your exact verbage is difficult to understand. If I understand your question, you are asking if the same issue of religious exemption should be applied to a Muslim organization that is being forced by the government to do something against their basic belief. Yes, it should. I don't think that the government or other employers should prohibit Muslims from observing their daily prayers even though other non-Muslim employees may not be allowed to take non-prayer breaks at the same time. As to your other question about what other "morals clause" medical care can the Church deem to withhold, the point is moot since the Church is not withholding anything except paying for something that violates its basic belief. And, in the spirit of the Lenten season, I forgive you for the name calling.
Jan Schmidt February 23, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Oh yes... I do believe they've gone too far - way too far now - and they will regret it.
Dagny Taggart Rearden Galt February 23, 2012 at 02:53 AM
Charles Darwin said that it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. The men of the Grand Old Party (and oh, how grand it is) and the Catholic Church are resistant to change. The world has changed. Women have changed. And women represent 52% of the vote. Thus, I would say, the age of the crooked old white man is over. This is their swan song so let them sing.
Edward Dunsel February 23, 2012 at 03:07 AM
Selectman Ferraro wrote: As to your other question about what other "morals clause" medical care can the Church deem to withhold, the point is moot since the Church is not withholding anything except paying for something that violates its basic belief. You obviously don't understand what "moot" means. It does NOT mean, "they aren't doing it now, so it doesn't matter." The law allows them to do it for any reason they choose. It would only be moot if the Catholic Church had no other moral issues other than contraception. Your answers about Muslims also avoided the issue. Not surprising. It has NOTHING to do with being allowed to do their prayers. It has to do with whether a Muslim employER can refuse to pay for insurance that covers non-Muslim inter-religious couples? Can they. CAN THEY.? Allowing women to be covered by insurance to purchase birth control pills doesn't prevent Catholics from praying. Face it, you are simply unable to deal with the obvious consequences of this legislation, so you avoid answering, just as you did with respect to the financial issue. And by the way, "name calling? where? The only name calling was done by your hero Bettencourt, directed at the Bishop.
Edward Dunsel February 23, 2012 at 03:08 AM
Male Catholics leaders just can't handle the fact that a majority of those pesky wimmen are ignoring the rulez.
Don Duston February 23, 2012 at 03:38 AM
Catholic leaders could not prevent their own priests from committing unspeakable crimes, how in the world do they ever think that they could control Catholic women using contraceptives? The Vatican voice has become irrelevant, today's Catholics pick and choose what rules they follow. The Church won't dare punish those that do not follow their man-made rules because they would take a huge hit in the collection plate. It's all about the MONEY.
Paul Mercury February 23, 2012 at 05:30 AM
I agree with both of you. Stop the insanity. Single-payer is the obvious choice.
Seamus Carty February 23, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Wrong. Republicans would not support the government telling employers what has to be covered by their health plans. "the insurance I offer to my employees will not be available to those who marry outside their religion." Good luck hiring people. Being a "Muslim employer" would not be the issue. It would be for a Muslim organization such as a school, hospital, etc.
Frank Ferraro February 23, 2012 at 12:50 PM
ED Dunsel The name calling by you that I referred to: "You mean like the ones the insane clown posse-wing of the GOP keep trying to close down." Perhaps you should read your own comments before responding. I still don't understand your question. You seem irritated that I didn't understand your poor grammar, and now your question seems to have morphed into something new. I'm sorry, but I won't be able to continue to debate this issue with you especially in your current state of agitation. By the way, I can't find an Ed Dunsel in Exeter. Are you a resident of another town or are you just not using your real name? Have a nice day.
Edward Dunsel February 23, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Very big of you to take offense at names I called a group of other people. Unless you include yourself in the portion of the GOP that is trying to shut down women's health clinics due to moral concerns? Selectman Ferraro, Master of the Obtuse. I suppose I can only hope that neither you nor someone close to you never works for an employer whose "moral convictions" preclude access to legal and necessary medical care.
ForThePeople February 23, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Oddly enough, your insane clown posse reference fits all too nicely with the music group of the same name. Scary.
ForThePeople February 23, 2012 at 01:59 PM
You failed at making your argument, and now it's about grammar? The fact of the matter is, a religious organization should not be able to dictate what the insurance company does. If they do not like the insurance company, get a new one. Isn't that the free market you guys are always so hung up on?
LCS February 23, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Separation of Church and State also protects the state from excesses of religions who want to force their beliefs on others. If any religious organization is accepting any funds from the federal or state government, including tax exemptions, they must follow the laws of the state. Religions are not exempt from laws, although the Catholic Church has seemed to believe its priests are not only exempt but left free to continue to abuse. Additionally, religious tolerance has to go both ways. Its discriminatory to deny anyone necessary health care, whether you believe in it or not.
Curly-lady February 23, 2012 at 03:48 PM
I'm afraid the religious community is getting way too far into politics. I really think it's time for them to loose their tax exempt status. They have oversteped what should be their bounds.
Ali Rung February 23, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Dear Any and All Men (that includes you Mr. Pope, Cardinals, and Bishops!), Please, keep your opinions away from my uterus. If I'm against birth control, I won't take it; it's not your right to force your beliefs on me and my reproductive system. Thanks! Ali PS Republicans... since a lot of you have problems with abortion and funding welfare and other tax-funded programs to help the less fortunate, why WOULDN'T you want to prevent unplanned pregnancies?? You're confusing me!!
Edward Dunsel February 23, 2012 at 09:55 PM
First the Republicans in the House excluded Ms. Fluke from testifying, the better to have yet another old white man talk about birth control. Then when she did testify in front of a Democratic steering committee, the GOP shut off the TV cameras. Here's what she talked about: In Fluke’s testimony, she told the story of a fellow law school student who required access to the pill in order to deal with a medical condition. Not being able to afford it, because it wasn’t provided on the health care plan, the student wound up losing an ovary. This is the outcome the GOP apparently prefers. They wont teach Darwinism in school, but they will practice it on non-affluent women.
LJoel Hackbart February 26, 2012 at 06:52 AM
"Single payer" legislation has been signed into law in Vermont to be phased in over the next several years. I'll keep my fingers crossed and hope it spreads across state lines
Scott Morales February 26, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Hmm let's see a single pool of funds from which all insurance claims are paid and is controlled by the state, yeah that'll work. I'm sure that will be completely impervious to political concerns (such as those expressed on this page) and covered items will undoubtedly remain constant from one administration to another. I mean really, HHS Secretary Palin will definitely cover the same things as Sebelius right? Wrong. Bad idea.
Scott Morales February 26, 2012 at 07:11 PM
It is a paradox that those posters who bash others with whom they disagree (e.g. GOP, Church etc.) are then willing, heck advocating, to be put under a coercive system where precisely those with whom they disagree will have power to impose their ideas. Yes the GOP and religious people will win elections from time to time and fill all administrative position that share their beliefs. This type of thinking baffles me.


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