With a vote coming up soon on Sen. Roy Blunt's "Respect for Rights of Conscience Act" which would, as Mother Jones noted, "grant employers significant discretion in deciding what kind of health care they want to provide workers," it's been interesting watching right wingers twist themselves into knots trying to defend the amendment.
Case in point on this Tuesday evening's Hardball is Susan B. Anthony List's Marjorie Dannenfelser who had to take to lying about whether the amendment would actually allow any employer and not just religious institutions to deny coverage to their employees for just about anything. Dannenfelser was literally left stammering and stuttering when called on the fact that this goes way beyond anything that could be construed at an attack on the Catholic church.
If Republicans and their allies want to convince voters that this is not just a way for them to undermine the Affordable Care Act which they've been determined to do since the day it passed, they're going to have to find more capable people than Dannenfelser to make their arguments for them.
Transcript below the fold.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDALL.
Again today, the white hot issue of religious liberty and women`s right was fought on the Hill today. And that was HHS secretary, of course, Kathleen Sebelius, testifying earlier today in front of the House Ways and Means Committee.
We just learned, by the way, on Thursday that the Senate will vote on the Blunt amendment this Thursday. It`s a bold challenge the Obama administration`s birth control rule and would allow all employers, not just religious based ones, to reject parts of the health care law that run counter to their religious and moral believes.
What are the politics in play here and who benefits from a fight? Today`s "New York Times" headline says Democrats see benefits in battle on contraception. And adds, quote, "This is a fight Democrats are perfectly pleased to have."
Well, a new "Associated Press" poll shows President Obama`s approval rating among women has gone up 10 points since December among women. How much did women`s health issues play a part in that rise and how will this fight affect the politics of 2012?
Well, joining us right is Democratic Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Colorado, who`s co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. And Marjorie Dannenfelser, who is president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an organization who works to elect pro-life candidates.
So, I`m going to pull back here and let both of you discuss this issue. I want to start, as I always do, with elected officials, with Congresswoman DeGette. Let me ask you why it looks like to the press covering this, the Democrats are not running away from this fight. They are quite willing to get out there at the edge of this fight and face it down?
REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D), COLORADO: Well, Chris, the last I heard, it was 2012 -- a year when 99 percent of American women have used or use right now birth control. They use birth control for family planning. They use birth control to do things to, like, prevent ovarian cancer.
And really, out there in the hinterlands, out where I live in Colorado, and every place else around the country, women are saying, of course, birth control family planning are part of my health care services. Not just for family planning, but also for a whole variety of other reasons.
And they are really kind of surprised that anybody would say that they shouldn`t be provided that as part of their regular medical care.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go to the other side.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, I assume you are here to make the case for these moral amendments, these opportunities by Blunt and the others on the House, both sides of the Hill, to offer the opportunity for employers to say, no, they don`t have to pay for this kind of health coverage for women?
MARJORIE DANNENFELSER, SBA LIST: That`s right, Chris. You know, the gender war machine is revved up whenever is possible. But this is an inappropriate time because really, actually, the language that the feminist movement used to use, who decides, is a very appropriate question to ask here. Should be a small group of federal bureaucrats along with President Obama that decide what religious institutions and private institutions, for that matter, define as conscientious and a good thing to provide? Should they be dictating what an appropriately formed conscience looks like?
Look, 2,000 years of religious doctrine have gone behind the Catholic Church`s view that abortive drugs, which this includes, and sterilization and contraception, is not within those moral bounds? No one is getting -- no one is getting in the way of women having contraception.
DANNENFELSER: It is only a question of whether institutions should be required to provide that. And for Sebelius to say you get a year to adapt to -- adapt your thinking to us is not in any way --
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, what do you think is the politics of this? Who do you think wins this argument with the American people? And it is an election year, it is 2012.
What do the American people want to come out of this debate, do you believe?
DEGETTE: I think the American people want reasonable health care for everybody. The Institutes of Medicine concluded that on a scientific basis, birth control was part of a women`s regular medical care and that`s why it was ordered to be part of every insurance plan.
Now, listen, the Obama administration made a very wise compromise, I think, and they said religious institutions don`t have to pay for contraception.
But the question is, who`s decision is it? I agree in one way with Marjorie. She says she doesn`t want a small group of people making decisions on women`s health.
I agree. I don`t think that the U.S. bishops should be able to say whether millions of Americans make the conscientious choice themselves to say I want birth control or not.
And, by the way, 98 percent of Catholic women have used birth control in their lives, too. So, that`s really what the issue is.
I`m sorry that -- that it`s being politicized too, because the way I feel, the way my daughters feel, the way every woman I know feels is that birth control/pregnancy prevention, is part of a women`s regular health care. We should be able to get it as part of our insurance.
MATTHEWS: Explain this part to me, Marjorie. Suppose the CEO of a major American corporation was against birth control. He didn`t believe it should be covered by health insurance.
Could he decide on the behalf of his corporation that they wouldn`t provide health care coverage of this kind, under your proposal?
DANNENFELSER: At this point, the only exemptions would be for --
MATTHEWS: No, but under your proposal?
DANNENFELSER: Under the -- under the Blunt bill in the Senate?
DANNENFELSER: CEOs would still -- they would be -- the exemption would be provided for anyone within any institution.
MATTHEWS: Any president, any CEO could just say --
DANNENFELSER: The answer --
MATTHEWS: I just want the fact here. Any CEO could say because I don`t like birth control, nobody that works for me is going to get that coverage. You think that`s fair legislation?
DANNENFELSER: I don`t think that`s actually what the legislation says.
MATTHEWS: What is it?
DANNENFELSER: Right now, the exemption is for, and this what the Blunt bill does, it provides religious and privately -- private institutions to exempt themselves.
MATTHEWS: Right. That`s what I`m saying.
DANNENFELSER: I do not believe this applies to corporations. Let me just say this.
DEGETTE: Then, it applies to anybody.
DANNENFELSER: Let me just say this -- no matter what the institution, it should --because if you --
MATTHEWS: OK. Fine.
DANNENFELSER: I`m just saying that the --
MATTHEWS: I think the public understands this issue. Ladies, thank you so much. I think they get it right now.
Thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Diana DeGette for coming on. And, Marjorie Dannenfelser, as always.