By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — U.S. Senate candidate Mark Neumann showed up at Catholic hospitals around the state Wednesday, blasting President Barack Obama’s health-care law and a controversial provision that has angered the religious right.
Was it political theater on Neumann’s part? Perhaps. Did St. Mary’s Hospital, a Catholic health-care center here, know the GOP candidate was coming? Apparently not.
Regardless, Neumann’s campaign stops did shine more light on the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its required coverage of abortions, just days before the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the law’s constitutionality.
“The (national health-care law) literally requires an institution such as this — a Catholic hospital — to include abortion-inducing drugs in their health-care plans, which is in direct opposition to their ethical and moral and religious beliefs,” said the former U.S. representative of Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District.
Last month, more than 40 Catholic organizations nationwide, including the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Ind., and the Archdioceses of New York and Washington, filed a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act.
“The federal mandate requires Notre Dame and similar religious organizations to provide in their insurance plans abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization procedures, which are contrary to Catholic teaching,” according to a statement from the University of Notre Dame.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling on the health-care act this month. At the heart of the case is whether the federal government can require Americans to purchase health insurance.
“This entire discussion about the U.S. federal government requiring insurance companies to include various things in their insurance policy is out of line,” said Neumann.
Neumann’s news conference had all the trappings of a clever campaign ploy to draw out conservative support in a GOP nominee race that shows him lagging behind Republican front-runner and former Gov. Tommy Thompson. Neumann also planned on speaking outside of two other Catholic hospitals in Milwaukee and Green Bay.
Steve Van Dinter, director of media relations at St. Mary’s, said the hospital did not learn about Neumann’s appearance until “five or 10 minutes before it happened.”
“We just wanted to make it clear (to) them that we can’t as a nonprofit hospital endorse a political candidate,” Van Dinter said.
However, St. Mary’s has expressed concern over the Affordable Care Act.
On May 30, William Thompson, president of SSM Health Care, St. Mary’s parent company, called for the rescission of the abortion coverage requirement or exemption for religious organizations from “providing coverage and medications for procedures they find morally objectionable” in a letter to the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
Neumann has made repealing the national health-care law one of his top priorities. His campaign slogan reads “Balanced budget, Repeal Obamacare.”
“Even in the best case-scenario, where (national health-care law) is overturned by the Supreme Court, we will have to go in and take apart the bureaucracy that’s been put together to make sure they don’t initiate parts of (the law) anyway, and we will need to defund it,” Neumann said.
He’s joined by his fellow Republican U.S. Senate candidates in the fight against Obamacare.
“Eric (Hovde) supports repealing and replacing (the Affordable Care Act) with free-market, consumer driven solutions that put patients in charge of their health-care decisions,” said Sean Lansing, press secretary for the Madison businessman’s Senate campaign.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, of District 2, and the sole Democrat in the U.S. Senate race, voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010. She has defended that vote.
“It’s not perfect, but it is an important and powerful first step that is already providing a lot of relief and will provide a lot of protections that people don’t have today against archaic insurance rules that will be history soon. And I think it will help us get our arms around affordability and cost,” Baldwin told a Milwaukee Press Club Newsmaker luncheon in February, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Baldwin did not return calls from Wisconsin Reporter.