MERCER COUNTY —
Mercer County Congressman Mike Kelly declared Wednesday “the day religious freedom died” and likened a provision of the Affordable Care Act to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and Pearl Harbor.
Kelly led a news conference on the steps of Capitol Hill where he and fellow Republicans decried the health care law’s mandate that employers provide coverage for a raft of women’s health procedures including contraception. The mandate, opposed by some religious groups, took effect Wednesday.
“I know in your mind, you can think of the times America was attacked,” Kelly said. “One is Dec. 7, that’s Pearl Harbor Day. The other is Sept. 11, and that’s the day the terrorists attacked. I want you to remember Aug. 1, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates.”
Kelly’s comments drew criticism from women’s health advocates, social media users, bloggers, and Democrats, including his Third District re-election rival Missa Eaton.
“The comparison is ludicrous and compares foreign acts of aggression upon our nation to a piece of domestic legislation that sincerely tries to provide women with access to quality, affordable health care,” the Sharon Democrat said in a statement issued by her campaign.
Eaton said the victims of those attacks deserve an apology from Kelly.
“Their suffering does not deserve to be used as a tool for someone looking to score political points to satisfy the extreme right of the Republican Party with yet another political sound bite. It cheapens those individuals’ sacrifice and is out of line,” Eaton said.
Kelly’s office did not return a call seeking comment. His office issued a statement after the news conference which didn’t reference Sept. 11 or Pearl Harbor but called the mandate “an undeniable and unprecedented attack on Americans’ First Amendment rights.”
It said the requirement would force employers to cover “abortion-inducing drugs or else pay a steep tax” that could cost a business employing 50 people as much as $1,825,000 a year.
In addition to contraceptives, the mandate covers cancer screenings, breast-feeding support, gestational diabetes screening, HPV testing, sexually transmitted disease counseling and HIV and domestic violence screenings.
“We need to stop worrying about political correctness and worry about correcting the politics of Washington before our constitutional rights continue to erode before our eyes,” Kelly said in the news release.