A House Republican lawmaker likened the implementation of a new mandate that insurers offer coverage for contraceptive services to Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks against the United States.
Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly (R), an ardent opponent of abortion rights, said that today's date would live in infamy alongside those two other historic occasions. Wednesday marked the day on which a controversial new requirement by the Department of Health and Human Services, which requires health insurance companies to cover contraceptive services for women, goes into effect.
"I know in your mind you can think of times when America was attacked. One is December 7th, that's Pearl Harbor day. The other is September 11th, and that's the day of the terrorist attack," Kelly said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "I want you to remember August the 1st, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates."
Republicans cried foul when the Obama administration first announced the new rule, reasoning that it would force employers with a religious affiliation to act in a way that contradicts their beliefs. The outcry included criticism from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and President Obama subsequently announced a compromise in which employers wouldn't be forced to offer insurance plans that cover contraception, but insurance companies would be required to offer coverage to women who wish to purchase it.
Republicans rejected the compromise, and subsequently attempted several times to advance legislation to reverse the mandate. The imbroglio contributed to Democratic charges of a GOP-led "war on women."
"This is a right that every American should be outraged, outraged about what this administration and Secretary Sibelius has set forth here on August the 1st," New York Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R) said at the same press conference as Kelly. "And as Mike said, August the 1st is a day that we as American will look at as the largest assault on our First Amendment rights."
*UPDATE* Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, a veteran of World War II, condemned Kelly's comments in a statement.