Obama's birth control mandate good policy?

Rev. Katherine Ragsdale on the mandate some feel was good public policy regardless of whether it violated the teachings of the Catholic church


This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," February 10, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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INGRAHAM: Now some religious leaders continue to believe that the mandate was good public policy regardless of whether it violated the teachings of the Catholic Church.

And joining us now from Boston is the Reverend Katherine Ragsdale who is the president and dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts and she joins us now. Reverend Ragsdale tell us about your reaction when you first heard what President Obama said today.

REV. KATHERINE RAGSDALE, PRESIDENT OF EPISCOPAL DIVINITY SCHOOL: Well, actually, I was quite pleased and impressed he -- he has still -- and relieved, and relieved, frankly -- he has still a plan to ensure that every American woman has access to contraceptive health care if and when she needs it. And he's managed to do it in a way that has won the applause of both the Catholic Health Association and Planned Parenthood.

So what could be bad? I'm again, very pleased and very impressed that he's managed this compromise.

INGRAHAM: Now the Catholic Bishops Conference, U.S. Conference on Catholic Bishops said basically they're going to look at the details and that there is, perhaps, more hope than there was yesterday. But they've clearly not given this -- their (INAUDIBLE) of approval.

And I guess my question to you would be Reverend Ragsdale, what about the religious conscience of those employers who might not be affiliated with a religious institution like a Catholic hospital but who nevertheless themselves have their own moral qualms and reservations about paying for insurance that provides this coverage? Why does their religious liberty not come into play?

RAGSDALE: Well, I think the issue is the religious liberty of the people who need this health care. It's perfectly fine for the Roman Catholic Church and others who agree with them that contraception is -- is wrong. It's perfectly fine for them to believe that, that ought to be supported. They have every right to teach that. They have every right to bring to bear their considerable moral suasion to persuade people to follow their teaching.

What they don't have a right to do is to cross the line from persuasion to coercion by denying people the option to make their own choice --


INGRAHAM: Well, Reverend, yes. You said coercion. Well, well, hold on, you said the word "coercion", which is a pretty loaded word. To say that the -- the Catholic institution would coerce women, I guess, not to get these services, or prevent them from getting these services is a complete mischaracterization. In fact, the Catholic hospitals --


RAGSDALE: To provide them --

INGRAHAM: -- universities, whoa, whoa, would -- would simply not pay for these services or pay for insurance that pays for them. Nothing is stopping a woman who even calls herself a Catholic from going into a Planned Parenthood clinic or from going into a university health center and getting these contraceptive pills or sterilization or morning after pill. And -- and using them. Right?

I mean, so who is preventing the women from getting this, this quote, "preventative treatment?"

RAGSDALE: Stopping women from being able to access that treatment through their health care does, in fact, deny them the option. It prevents them from exercising that option.


INGRAHAM: No it doesn't prevent them.

RAGSDALE: Providing -- providing the insurance doesn't require anyone to use it.


INGRAHAM: Yes but it doesn't prevent them.

RAGSDALE: Yes, it does.


INGRAHAM: -- from getting the services. What prevents them from going into a community health care clinic and getting in Orthonovum 777 (ph) prescription? Nothing; except they're going to have to pay out of pocket versus violating the conscience of the employer.

RAGSDALE: Yes so if you can afford it, you can have access to full health care and if you can't afford it, too bad for you. Health insurance ought to cover all basic health insurance needs.

INGRAHAM: So you -- and you -- so you were in favor of the original - - you were in favor of the original edict from HHS, were you not? You were one of a number of clergy who signed on to this saying that this was exactly what women needed for, quote, "preventative care?"

RAGSDALE: Absolutely. The original regulation already allowed an exemption for the over 300,000 churches and houses of worship in this country. They already could opt out. What it didn't allow are institutions such as hospitals and schools --



RAGSDALE: -- which receive federal funding to opt out. I'm not really in favor of having my tax dollars used to promote a religious principle that my church has disagreed with for decades. Nearly a century, as a matter of fact.

INGRAHAM: But and you -- you actually have given speeches in the past and it's an issue that a lot of people think is involved here and it will be down the road on abortion. And you have said in the past that you believe abortion is a blessing and can be a blessing. You even referred to late term abortion as a, quote, "blessing" in a speech in 2007.

I read this -- this paragraph of something -- I guess you said in a speech. And I was quite stunned by that and I guess my question to you is, if it should pay for sterilization and the morning after pill, why shouldn't insurance also be compelled to pay for abortion services free of charge? Should it?

RAGSDALE: That's an entirely different issue. What the President has managed here is a compromise that allows women access to contraception which will reduce the need for abortion. And I think we all can agree that the fewer abortions needed the better off we all are.

INGRAHAM: Right but if abortion is a blessing why do we need fewer abortions?

RAGSDALE: Well, the same reason heart transplants are a blessing but we prefer not to have people need them. The late term abortions take place to save women's lives. It would be wonderful if fewer women needed that.

INGRAHAM: So you still stand by your statement that abortions are blessings?

RAGSDALE: When you need them. So is cardiac surgery when you need it though I prefer never to need it.

INGRAHAM: So a sick heart is the same as a beating heart in a child?

RAGSDALE: Yes. We could spend a lot of time debating that. I think you are completely missing the mark.


INGRAHAM: We should. Now we should.

RAGSDALE: We could do that but that's not what's on the table today.

INGRAHAM: Right but you would prefer that abortion is covered under this -- under this mandate as well? I mean that's no secret, right?

RAGSDALE: I am delighted at what he has been able to accomplish. And I'm perfectly happy to applaud that.

INGRAHAM: I appreciate it Reverend, thanks so much for joining us.

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