Contraception: Santorum's last stand?

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With Republicans in three states trudging to their nearest schools to hold straw votes this evening, we could be seeing do-or-die time for presidential hopeful Rick Santorum.

His poll numbers put him in a close race with Mitt Romney, who has the momentum after his wins in Florida and Nevada, yet Santorum's chances tonight are about as good as they are going to get. Some pollsters are even predicting a "Santorum surprise."

Santorum knows that he needs that something special to secure his appeal over Romney, That he needs to find that perfect argument to convince the yet-decided Republicans that he is their faithful servant. And this is what he came up with.

A political firestorm over abortion and birth control spread suddenly on Tuesday. A high-ranking official resigned from the Komen breast-cancer charity after its backtracking treaty with Planned Parenthood, and Republican presidential candidates blistered the Obama administration for a recent ruling on Catholic hospitals and contraception.

Santorum wants GOP caucus-goers to know that he would never require Catholic hospitals provide something like Plan B — an emergency contraceptive — to rape victims ... but Mitt Romney would.

I stand with Americans - people of every faith or no faith at all - who still hold that there are truths which are self evident - and rights which are inalienable.

This is not the first time that elected officials have trounced on the fundamental right to religious freedom. In December 2005, Governor Mitt Romney required all Massachusetts hospitals, including Catholic ones, to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.

He said then that he believed “in his heart of hearts” that receiving these contraceptives - free of charge - trumped employees' religious consciences. Now, a few years later and running for president, his heart is strategically aligned with religious voters opposing this federal mandate.

Newt Gingrich took the cue, and took his swipe at Romney, too.

"There's been a lot of talk about the Obama administration's attack on the Catholic church," Gingrich told a packed house at Price Hill Chili Restaurant here. "Well the fact is, Gov. Romney insisted that Catholic hospitals give out abortion pills against their religious belief when he was governor."

Romney's defenders, however, want everyone to know that Santorum and Gingrich have gotten their facts wrong.

David French, a Romney supporter, provides some more detail over at the National Review:

The legislature passed legislation mandating that hospitals — including the state’s Catholic hospitals — administer [emergency contraception]. Governor Romney vetoed that legislation ...

Unfortunately, however, the legislature overrode his veto (by overwhelming margins). What followed was a dispute over the meaning of two seemingly conflicting state laws: a decades-old law exempting private hospitals from providing contraceptives and the newer law containing no such exemptions. Initially, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (which was charged with crafting regulations implementing the new EC law) took the position that the new law didn’t supersede the old and that Catholic hospitals could opt out. Two days later, the Romney administration reversed this view, stating the proper legal interpretation was that the new law did, in fact, apply to all hospitals in the state.

Also, for good measure, Romney totally opposes "Obamacare".

They are now using Obamacare to impose a secular vision on Americans who believe that they should not have their religious freedom taken away.

On January 20, 2012, the Obama administration affirmed a rule that would force Roman Catholic hospitals, charities, and universities to purchase health insurance for their employees that includes coverage for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization, in violation of their religious principles. This is wrong.

It should be an interesting night.

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