What Obama just said on Friday afternoon was extremely confusing. But once you get to the truth of it, it’s also extremely frightening.

The president was facing down a conundrum: trying to assuage religious groups appalled at being forced to cover birth control under an impending federal mandate, while making it clear to his base that he wouldn’t back away one bit from the “core principle” (his words) of giving women free birth control pills. The best way to achieve this goal is to find a funny way to reword what you already said.

So the way he rephrased was basically this: don’t worry religious groups, the insurance premium bill you’re footing for your employees won’t really pay for their insured birth control. Why? Insurance companies can really offer it for free because it avoids the cost of childbirth (not to mention the other health costs of a whole new person on the planet for 20-someodd years):

“The overall cost of health care is lower when women have access to contraceptive services,” Obama said, later explaining: “if a woman’s employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company -– not the hospital, not the charity -– will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles.”

(In case that sounds like a concession note that Planned Parenthood and NARAL are simply delighted with this, because, they say, Obama hasn’t changed his commitment. Predictably, the Catholic Health Association is also “very pleased” to have gotten its fig leaf back.)

Meanwhile, the National Right to Life Committee immediately saw through Obama’s statement to exactly what it was: a free ticket to a future abortion coverage mandate. After all, if contraception is really an investment because it prevents births (thereby saving costs), abortion certainly is.

“President Obama today promulgated a scam that, if he is re-elected, will allow him to mandate that every health plan in America cover abortion on demand,” said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. 

The “twisted logic” found in the Friday “scam,” said Johnson, has few natural bounds.

“By this form of doublespeak, one could say that the federal Medicaid program was not really ‘funding abortion’ when it paid for 300,000 abortions a year (prior to adoption of the Hyde Amendment in 1976), because after all, every abortion that the government paid for also saved the government money,” he said.

So too could legalized physician-assisted suicide become a “free” insurance service because it prevents the “waste” of spending any more money on elongating a life. Johnson also pointed out that there is nothing in the federal health care law stopping an abortion coverage mandate under the Health and Human Services Secretary’s list of “preventive” services - the only abortion ban applies to a different section of the law, regarding a list of federally mandated “essential health benefits.” 

Obama was banking on media headlines distilling the White House’s message as a “compromise.” And because he was the first to extend “compromise,” that means religious people have to start playing nice or else come off as the bad guys.

Don’t buy it. Obama not only just flipped us the bird, but quietly gave the signal for a new and very ugly battle. We don’t have to play nice.

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