Ex-Obama official might not back Obama this year, citing birth-control decision

A prominent backer of Barack Obama’s 2008 run for the White House says he might not support the president’s reelection bid because of the administration’s controversial decision on contraception.

Douglas Kmiec, Obama’s former ambassador to Malta, is strongly opposed to Obama’s new mandate that Catholic hospitals and universities provide contraception in their employee health plans.

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Kmiec, who served in the Reagan administration, noted that he urged Obama last year to grant an exemption, explaining that such a move “would be an opportunity to be more sensitive to religious freedom than the law requires.”

Asked whether he will back Obama in 2012, Kmiec replied in an email, "Until I have an opportunity to speak with the president, I am for now (unhappily) without a candidate."

Kmiec, now a professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University, said last year there was a "98 percent chance" he would support Obama's reelection bid.

He told The Hill that "there were several ways to reimburse employees of Catholic institutions for the expense which did not implicate any of the ethical concerns of the theologians. Why exactly did we not walk down a path that would have led to common ground — namely, coverage without ethical objection? That’s what I need answered before deciding on 2012. I find it most troubling to be tossed into this dilemma since as a Republican with independent, if not latent Democratic, tendencies, I am very proud of the president’s success on the healthcare initiative and his withdrawal of troops from Iraq..."

The administration has staunchly defended its decision, pointing out that churches are still exempt from the requirement, which won't take effect until 2013. Supporters of the new policy also note that many states already have similar policies.

Clergy officials have lambasted Obama's move, which was hailed by abortion-rights groups.

Political analysts say the tension between the Catholic Church and Obama could hamper the president's bid for a second term. Republicans running for the White House have repeatedly criticized Obama in recent days.

Kmiec, a Catholic who opposes abortion rights, was denied Communion in the wake of his endorsement of Obama, which caused a stir when he announced his decision. Kmiec had originally backed Romney before switching, and he earned a speaking spot at the Democratic National Convention.

In his convention speech, he made the case why voters, especially Catholics, should back Obama despite his support for abortion rights. Kmiec asserted that Obama's other policy positions were key to his backing.

"[Obama] understands the truth of a human person," Kmiec reportedly said at the time. He added that being pro-life "has to be a commitment to all life."