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Heard on the Hill: Eleven Crazy Quotes from the Contraception Debate | The Nation

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George Zornick

George Zornick

Action and dysfunction in the Beltway swamp. E-mail tips to george@thenation.com

Heard on the Hill: Eleven Crazy Quotes from the Contraception Debate

For the past several weeks, Republicans in Congress have been consumed with a planned Health and Human Services mandate, which beginning August 1 will require employers to offer a health insurance plan that covers birth control for women, without a copayment—unless the employer is a church or house of worship, in which case it is exempt. If there is an institution run by a religious outfit but not a church—say, Georgetown University—the insurer must cover the cost of contraception coverage, not the employer.

This seemingly arcane policy change—a vast majority of the country uses birth control, and religious outfits can pretty much escape the mandate anyway—has nevertheless been the subject of two hearings in the House of Representatives and one floor debate and vote in the Senate.

During these debates, Republicans rigorously denied they have any problem with contraception or female sexuality, Rush Limbaugh’s comments notwithstanding. Instead they’ve used florid language about religious freedom, the founding fathers, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr.—heck, even Josef Stalin—and a wide variety of other crazy, nonsensical arguments.

Here are the eleven nuttiest:

“This debate strikes to the heart of the freedoms we as Americans enjoy. Why do we have these freedoms? We have them because in 1776 the people decided they were sick and tired of the King telling them they had to do this and they had to do that and had totally wiped out a number of freedoms they had.”   —Idaho Senator James Risch, March 1

“[This] is about who we are as Americans and renewing our commitment to the principles upon which this nation was founded. This debate comes down to the legacy left behind by our founding fathers and over 200 years of American history.”   —New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, March 1

“Now, I would like to know what legal authority he relies upon that the president could ever order anyone to offer a service or an item for free. He has no such authority. This is not the Soviet Union; this is the United States of America.”   —Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns, March 1

“I don’t normally call from Joseph Stalin, but today he said something appropriate, about liberty. He said America is a like a healthy body, and it’s resistance is three-fold, it’s patriotism, it’s morality, it’s spiritual life. If we can undermine these three areas, America will collapse from within. I would encourage our church, I would encourage Congress, I would encourage our administration to fight back strongly against what Stalin understood.”   —Michigan Representative Tim Walberg, February 16

“We heard from religious leaders whose positions might not be popular, like MLK’s was [sic] not so long ago.”   —California Representative Darrell Issa, February 16

“If the government mandated everything to have positive health benefits, it could possibly mandate that everyone drink red wine for heart health even though it violates the religious beliefs of Muslims and Mormons. And it could mandate that everyone eat shellfish even though that violates the religious beliefs of Jews. And it could mandate gym memberships because it is widely accepted that exercise is beneficial.”   —Asma Uddin, an attorney for the Becket Fund, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, February 28

“I am asking you why should I care what they think in California? In fact, what—why should I care about the conclusions that have been brought forward by the Supreme Court?”   —Iowa Representative Steve King, February 28

“Do you see a slippery slope when the government comes in and says we are making this decision in the name of public health, that pork is better for you than beef and therefore, we, the government, mandate pork upon the community instead of beef?”   —Texas Representative Louie Gohmert, February 28

“I find it instructive in what is supposed to be a legal hearing on the free exercise of religion, the Democrats offer a health care professional as their witness.”    —South Carolina Representative Trey Gowdy, February 28

“Gandhi said in matters of conscience the law of the majority has no place. Rabbi, in this case, where you have no faith-specific objections to what is in HHS—isn’t that essentially why you’re here? That all of us as minorities must stand together to say there but for us, go someone else the next time?”   —California Representative Darrell Issa, February 28

“These guys [the assembled religious leaders] are ready to go to jail because they won’t violate their religious beliefs, and the hospitals and the schools are going to close, which means government is going to get bigger because they are going to have to fill the void that is left when you guys quit doing it. And maybe that’s what they wanted all along.”   —South Carolina Representative Trey Gowdy, incorrectly asserting HHS would jail people for failing to offer contraceptive coverage, and then wondering if it’s all a big conspiracy, February 16

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