Sr. Carol Keehan and the very large Catholic Health Association network were instrumental in helping President Obama get the contentious health care overhaul passed. But his HHS mandate issued in January was a push too far, and they objected along with all the Catholic bishops. His alleged accomodation to their concerns got Sr. Keehan and the HHS back on board and gave him Catholic cover. Now, the CHA has reversed itself again. Like everyone who looked fully at the so-called ‘accommodation’ they saw that it wasn’t one.

I wrote the above a few days ago but had to save it as a draft while traveling, and wound up unable to blog for a while, with little access to the internet. Given past experiences with Sr. Keehan, I wasn’t sure it would even still be accurate or rather, reversed again at this point.

As of the moment, it still holds that this major health provider, a critical Catholic ally for the president, is publicly calling the HHS mandate unacceptable. Rocco Palmo has all the lowdown here, including part of the letter the CHA sent the federal department of HHS.

Here’s a key snip from Rocco’s post:

Today’s letter was signed by Keehan and CHA’s immediate past and present board chairs.

Previously, CHA supported the passage of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act over the bishops’ objections to the law’s treatment of funding coverage for abortions. In appreciation for the role the association’s campaign played in the bill’s enactment, President Obama famously gave Keehan one of the pens he used to sign the sweeping Federal health-care reform into law.

On the initial announcement of the contraceptive policy in January, however, the CHA president backed the bishops, calling the White House proposal “a missed opportunity to be clear on appropriate conscience protection.”

In the wake of that statement, even the New York Times noted that the administration’s subsequent undertaking to find an agreeable middle ground “was for” Keehan, who “had told the White House that” as originally proposed, “the new rule… went too far.”

That sentence is especially key, because Obama may be relying on ‘the Catholic Left’ again. And as the WSJ’s Bill McGurn pointed out the week the mandate was issued, he has offended them. It has remained very relevant, and is worth reading again now.

I have interviewed many radio guests on any number of angles on this mandate and its ramifications, including political, and when it comes to the question of ‘the Catholic vote’ this year, they mostly speculate that Obama is losing that part of his formerly supportive base, though it’s hard to guage. Given Sr. Keehan’s and the CHA’s reversal, it may get clearer soon.

Especially with nation’s Catholics largely engaged in the US bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom. More on that next time…

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....