12:39 pm Feb. 13, 20121
Republican congresswoman Nan Hayworth, who won a close race in 2010 in a classic New York swing district, thinks the bishops who oppose President Obama's contraception compromise are right.
"I agree with our Catholic bishops, who say this is not enough," she told me after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's speech to the Association for a Better New York this morning. "They still have to provide the insurance as employers, so it would seem rather naive simply to say, 'Well, we'll have the insurers provide this.' And to call something free is truly deceptive. Nothing is free. Someone will be paying."
The president's decision to have insurance companies pick up the costs of contraception coverage for employees of church-operated hospitals and schools provides grist for each party's base, but it's unclear how it will play with swing voters, and particularly with women, who helped Obama capture the presidency in 2008, and then helped Republicans win back the majority in 2010.
Hayworth ran as a mostly pro-choice Republican two years ago, preferring to focus on economic issues, but has since angered some abortion-rights advocates by voting with the House majority on bills that would expand the Hyde Amendment and restrict funding to groups like Planned Parentood.
Hayworth told me she wasn't concerned about this becoming a divisive issue in this year's campaign.
"I would hope it wouldn't be," she said.
Asked if she was concerned that Republicans might be branded as an anti-contraception party, Hayworth said, "No, not at all."
During the question-and-answer session after his speech, Cantor cast the controversy as a First Amendment issue, and drew upon his personal history as a Jew in Virginia.
"This is a very tough issue, I know," said Cantor. "But, again, as a member of a minority faith in this country, who grew up without a lot of individuals of my faith, it's very important for us to recognize that a statute of religious freedom that began in my state, written by Thomas Jefferson, that was translated into the Bill of Rights. It is about the ability to choose your religion and go about practicing it without having the governmentt come in and say you can't do that.
"I'm sure we haven't seen the last of this issue. I believe the administration has already tried to take steps to meet the objections and has not yet responded adequately."
Later, during a brief availability with reporters, Cantor stressed that it was about mandates.
"I think what you see is this administration imposing more mandates, requirements of the kind of health care they want to see," he said. "And it obviously is something that offends the tenets of the Catholic faith and others, and I don't think that it is what people feel their government ought to be doing, is imposing these kinds of mandates.
I asked Cantor if it was good for Republicans to being have a conversation about contraception during an election year.
"I think it is what it is," he said. "The administration has raised this issue. I think it's one of religious freedom and we all ought to be able to practice our faith according to the vision of our founders and our Constitution."
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