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BY KRISTEN GOLEMBIEWSKI, Staff Writer

In the latest revolt against President Obama’s birth control mandate, Catholic bishops are demanding that the contraception rule be removed from the health care law entirely.

Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, believes it is unfair to the Catholic business owners of America who would have to comply with federal law and provide insurance coverage for contraception. He believes it would create a problem for the “good Catholic business people who can’t in good conscience cooperate with this.”

As he summarized, “If I quit this job and opened up a Taco Bell, I’d be covered by the mandate.”
Coincidentally, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a potential VP pick, introduced his “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” which would allow any institution or corporation to “cut off birth control coverage simply by citing religious grounds,” according to MotherJones.com.

The proposal, introduced January 31, would do what Picarello wants and allow any entity – religiously affiliated or not – to strip coverage if a religious reason is given.

On Wednesday, the Michigan House Government Operations Committee invited the Michigan Catholic Conference to testify with regards to House Resolution 185. Sponsored by Representative Andrea LaFontaine (R-Richmond Township), the bill calls for the administration to rescind the HHS mandate and pass the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.

Democratic Whip Vicki Barnett decried the motion, explaining that the bill was “directed at and for the control of women.”

The bill passed 67 – 39.

On Thursday, a hearing was held to examine the regulation requiring employers and insurers to provide contraception coverage. Headed by Darrell Issa (R-CA), the hearing featured male representatives from various Christian religions.

Clergymen testified that they believed the government was infringing on religious freedom. According to Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, “the administration is showing insensitivity to the liberty of conscience.”
Women were explicitly banned from testifying. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) requested that a female witness be included.

Issa refused, arguing that, “As the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience…Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness.”

Issa also claimed that Democrats could not add their own witness because she was not a clergy member. After much back and forth, two women were featured on the second panel.

Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA) accused witnesses of “being used for a political agenda” and called the hearing a “sham.”

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has also spoken out about the mandate, arguing that the government is attempting to force people to pay for something that violates their faith or beliefs. Previously, Santorum has said that birth control harms women and society and that it’s not “a healthy thing for our country.”

In relation to the latest controversy, Santorum’s chief financial backer, Foster Friess, advised women to keep their legs closed.

“Back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives,” Friess said on MSNBC on Thursday. “The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”

Friess has since apologized, publishing a statement admitting that “the joke bombed” and that “many didn’t recognize it as a joke but thought it was my prescription for today’s birth control practices.” Santorum has distanced himself from the comment, saying that he is not responsible for supporters’ comments.

There has also been correction on the statistic that 98 per cent of Catholic women have used contraception in their lifetimes. According to the Washington Post, the study, conducted in 2011, only surveyed women between 15 and 44 who were sexually experienced.

Researcher Rachel K. Jones, who orchestrated the study, has admitted that a more appropriate wording would be “98 percent of sexually experienced women of child-bearing age and who identify themselves as Catholic have used a method of contraception other than natural family planning at some point in their lives.”