Four years ago, on the eve of Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th president of the United States, Catholics were concerned about candidate Obama's promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). At the time, I argued that the incoming president would not pursue FOCA, because he would not have the votes in Congress to get the legislation passed. Obama had shown himself to be a cautious politician, avoiding numerous controversial votes in both the Illinois legislature and the U.S. Senate, and I did not believe that he would expend precious political capital on a losing cause. (See What Will Barack Obama Do as President? for my full argument.)
In the end, as I predicted, President Obama supported abortion in ways that did not require a congressional vote, such as repealing the Mexico City policy that had forbidden the use of federal funds for abortion and other "family planning" services, but whenever the topic of abortion came up in connection with legislation that the administration was promoting (such as the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as ObamaCare), President Obama tried to downplay the issue or claim that abortion wasn't involved. He wanted to avoid, whenever possible, any direct vote on abortion.
That does not mean, of course, that his support for abortion "rights" has been any less strong during his four years as president than it was during his time as an Illinois legislator and a U.S. senator. Given a platform by the University of Notre Dame, he went to America's best-known Catholic university and made it clear where he stood. (See President Barack Obama at Notre Dame for my coverage of the Notre Dame controversy.) While denying that ObamaCare was meant to cover abortion services, he fought hard behind the scenes to defeat an amendment sponsored by pro-life Catholic Democrats in the House of Representatives to make sure that it would not. And even after the Affordable Care Act passed with the amendment, President Obama, through his nominally Catholic Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, snuck abortion back into ObamaCare through the contraception mandate, which provides for coverage of abortifacient drugs. As of January 1, 2013, business owners who have moral objections to providing their employees with insurance that covers the cost of drugs designed to kill unborn human life either have to act against their consciences or pay fines. In the case of the largest such business, Hobby Lobby, those fines amount to $1.3 million per day. (Hobby Lobby has managed to avoid them while it challenges the contraception mandate in court, but only by buying a few months' reprieve by switching health plans.)
All of this is consistent with how I predicted President Obama would act four years ago. And so, sadly, I feel fairly confident in predicting that President Obama will continue on this path in his second term. Unless the U.S. Supreme Court itself strikes down the contraception mandate as unconstitutional, President Obama will offer no accommodation to employers with moral objections to contraception. Worse yet, should the Supreme Court uphold the contraception mandate, I believe that President Obama--once again, through his nominally Catholic HHS secretary--will expand the scope of that mandate to cover even more abortifacient drugs and, eventually, direct abortions. (It would not even surprise me if he hinted at such an expansion in his Second Inaugural Address today, falling, as it does, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.)
I hope that I am wrong, but I see no reason for that hope. As long as President Obama does not have to take such a policy before Congress, where he might lose on a vote (as he likely would have on FOCA), he will continue to push the boundaries of abortion "rights." And yet, sadly, as his policies increase the number of abortions in the United States through both chemical and mechanical means, his supporters (including the 50 percent of American Catholic voters who cast their ballots for him in November 2012) will continue to claim that he is not pro-abortion, but simply "pro-choice," as if the choice in question involves something other than the destruction of an unborn human life.
To Hobby Lobby, and to every other company and religious organization that objects to the contraception mandate, President Obama offers only one choice: Violate your conscience, or face fines designed to force you out of business.
Welcome to Barack Obama's America: a country of openness and inclusion, so long as you think exactly as President Obama does.