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Timothy P. Carney: Obama's 'war on women' canard is not fooling women

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Photo - President Barack Obama during the second presidential debate. (AP Photo)
President Barack Obama during the second presidential debate. (AP Photo)
Politics,Timothy P. Carney,Campaign 2012,Politics Digest

When President Obama speaks about women's issues, it's a safe bet he's telling tall tales. When Democrats talk of a "war on women," they are usually waging a war on facts. And women, it seems, aren't fooled.

In 20 seconds on Tuesday night, while discussing women's health during the presidential debate, Obama dissembled twice. First on birth control. Second on Planned Parenthood.

"Gov. Romney feels comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the health care choices that women are making. I think that's a mistake," Obama said. It seemed an odd criticism from a president whose major domestic initiative injects government further into all aspects of health care. But Obama actually was attacking his health law's critics.

"In my health care bill, I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who is insured. Gov. Romney not only opposed it, he suggested that in fact employers should be able to make the decision as to whether or not a woman gets contraception through her insurance coverage."

What is Obama talking about? What is this diabolical Romney plan that would force women to beg their bosses for birth control?

Romney only got a few seconds Tuesday night to rebut that argument: "The president's statement of my policy is completely and totally wrong."

Here's the policy issue: Before last summer, many employer-provided health insurance plans covered birth control. Some covered sterilization. Some covered the "morning-after pill," which may cause abortions by killing a fertilized egg.

Some insurance plans covered 100 percent of the cost of birth control. Some insurance plans required a co-pay on birth control, just as they require on almost all drugs.

But wielding an Obamacare provision on "women's preventive care," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius imposed a new rule requiring almost all employers to cover every penny of contraception, sterilization and morning-after pills.

That means if you offer health insurance that doesn't cover sterilization, you're breaking the law. If you offer health insurance that covers all contraception, but requires a $5-a-month co-pay, you're breaking the law. If you offer two plans, and the one that covers all contraception and sterilization carries a higher premium, you're breaking the law. Or at least Sebelius' law.

Mitt Romney doesn't think those things should be illegal.

Wages, commuter benefits and vacation time are all matters of negotiation between bosses and the people they want to hire. But if you offer someone a job, and promise to pay them in cash instead of contraception, you're violating Obamacare.

So how do Obama and his surrogates characterize opposition to his mandate? They say Romney wants employers to keep you from getting contraception.

When Republicans proposed a broader conscience exemption to the new mandate last year, Obama's campaign said the GOP was forcing women to get a permission slip from their boss.

The mock permission slip on Obama's campaign website read:

"I have discussed the employee's contraceptive options with her, and I verify that her use of these methods (IS / IS NOT) in agreement with my personal beliefs. The employee (DOES / DOES NOT) have my permission to access birth control pills, intrauterine devices, or any other type of contraception."

At the Democratic National Convention, party-approved podium speeches rolled out this canard. Obama surrogate Sandra Fluke warned that Romney's America would be "an America in which access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it." Obama fundraiser Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, said Romney would "end access to birth control."

In the debate Tuesday, Obama was a bit more careful in his misleading talk, but seemingly tried to instill fear that Romney will take away women's contraception, rather than simply get the government out of this one aspect of the employer-employee relationship.

Will Obama next warn that Romney wants to let your boss "make the decision as to whether or not you get Starbucks coffee through your employer"?

Obama's also played loose with the facts while defending federal subsidies for Planned Parenthood. He stated that women "rely on [Planned Parenthood] for mammograms." But Planned Parenthood doesn't provide mammograms.

A federal law requires certificates for operating mammography equipment. When the Alliance Defense Fund, a religious liberty group, requested Food and Drug Administration documentation of Planned Parenthood's licensed mammography facilities, the FDA said it had no record of any certificates.

The notion that Romney and Republicans are waging a "war on women" has always been laughable. Now it appears to be failing: Romney has completely closed the gap among female voters in swing states, according to this week's USA Today poll.

Obama, it seems, didn't believe women could tell when they're being lied to.

Timothy P.Carney, The Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at tcarney@washingtonexaminer.com. His column appears Monday and Thursday, and his stories and blog posts appear on washingtonexaminer.com.

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