Obama administration looking to resolve contraception controversy
February 8th, 2012
04:43 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama administration looking to resolve contraception controversy

(CNN) – After an avalanche of criticism, the White House is working on a way to thread the needle on a new health care policy which will require all employers-including religious institutions-to cover contraception in their health insurance plans.

Policy makers are angling for a loophole that would ensure women receive coverage without forcing Catholic charities, hospitals and institutions to pay for it, two senior administration sources told CNN Wednesday.

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The administration is especially interested in the Hawaii model, in which female employees of religious institutions can purchase contraceptive coverage directly from the insurer at the same price offered to employees of all other employers.

Sources said policy makers are also looking at laws in 28 states that have similar coverage requirements.

One source prominent in the progressive Catholic community said the Hawaii plan is a "reasonably good vehicle to try" for a solution that can allay the concerns of Obama's Catholic allies.

Another favored plan, the source said, would be legislation that would allow women employed by religiously-affiliated employers to get contraceptive insurance from the exchanges created under Obama's sweeping health care reform, rather than from their employer's insurer.

Senior administration sources said while the Hawaii plan has appeal, it would not work nationally because the federal government cannot compel insurers to provide a side-contraception plan.

A source familiar with the Catholic community said the Obama administration talked to at least one progressive Catholic organization Wednesday as they looked to calm concerns about the policy on contraception. The White House would not confirm the discussion.

Sources familiar with White House thinking on a solution to the controversy caused by the ruling said the administration is aiming to win over progressive Catholics and is convinced approval from conservative Catholics is out of reach.

Catholic leaders, like the United States Conference of Bishops, have said nothing short of a reversal on the policy will allay their concerns.

As for a timeframe, policymakers will announce their decision when the Department of Health and Human Services officially releases the rule, sources said.

The new policy stirred an outcry last week among conservatives and religious groups–particularly Catholics, whose teaching opposes abortion and the use of contraceptives.

While churches are exempt from the rule, hospitals and schools with religious affiliations must comply. The new policy goes into effect on August 1, but religious groups will have a year-long extension to enforce the rule.

While the regulations have caused a firestorm of criticism, a new study released by the Public Religion Research Institute shows the majority of Catholics support the administration's plan. Nearly 6 out of 10 Catholics think employers should be required to provide this kind of insurance coverage. Among Catholic voters, support for the measure is slightly lower at 52%.

The administration first signaled it was softening its stance on the rule on Tuesday, when White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the administration was seeking alternative solutions for the issue.

"The president's interest at a policy level is in making sure that this coverage is extended to all women because it's important," Carney said. "(On) the other side is finding the right balance…concerns about religious beliefs and convictions. So we will, in this transition period …seek to find ways to implement that policy that allay some of those concerns."

On Wednesday House Speaker John Boehner called the policy an "ambiguous attack on religious freedom" and announced the chamber would pursue legislative action to prevent the rule from going into effect.

"If the president does not reverse the department's attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people, and the constitution, that we're sworn to uphold and defend, must," Boehner said on the House floor, adding the Energy and Commerce committee would spearhead the effort.

The Republican presidential candidates have also been vocal about the policy on the campaign trail. Frontrunner Mitt Romney has said he would eliminate the rule on his first day in office.

But on Thursday the White House hit back repeating an argument used by Romney's GOP opponents and pointing to a Massachusetts law in effect while Romney was governor that required hospitals-including Catholic ones-to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.

"This is I think ironic that Mitt Romney is expressing – criticizing the president for pursuing a policy that is virtually identical to the one that was in place when he was governor of Massachusetts," Carney said.

Responding to Carney's remarks on Wednesday, the candidate said Carney needs to "check his history."

In 2005 then-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney vetoed a bill that would have required all hospitals - including Catholic hospitals - to provide emergency contraception. The state legislature overrode the governor’s veto. Accordng to news reports at the time initially the governor said his administration would not enforce the law at Catholic hospitals; then he reversed course and said all hospitals would have to supply the morning after pill.

He’s quoted saying “my personal view in my heart of hearts is that people who are sbuject to rape should have the option of having emergency contraception or emergency contraception information.” Two of his Republican opponents have recently attacked him for this decision.

"I worked very hard to get the legislature to remove all of the mandated coverages, including contraception," Romney said during a media availability. "So quite clearly he needs to understand that was a provision that got there before I did and it was one that I fought to remove."

Also see:

Romney will take tougher approach to Santorum, adviser says

Gingrich touts nationwide campaign

Paul, on quests for delegates, looks past Tuesday contests

Obama's fashion fundraiser

Filed under: Faith • Health care • Jay Carney • Mitt Romney • White House
soundoff (88 Responses)
  1. macrasta

    this administration is looking out for women's health.. as a women... its is good to see they are keeping us at the top of the conversation when it comes to our health issues even though it might cause controversy... what is also refreshing is to see they are willing to work things out to keep a happy median....

    February 8, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  2. vic , nashville ,tn

    Republicans say religion freedom under attack

    Democrats say individual freedom under attack

    I am Ron Paul supporter I will agree with Democrats

    February 8, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  3. Obama's Snake Oil on Sale - Git yur lies and deceit here!!

    Yeah, I really REALLY mucked this one up... thought I could sleaze it through without anybody noticing. I should have used more potent snake oil and doubled up on the smoke and mirrors. Live and learn. I promise that if you re-elect me, I'll do much better with the smoke and mirrors in my second term.

    February 8, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  4. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    And now all you loser libtards can line up to kiss my ring finger on this one!!! Serving crow for supper this evening baby!!

    February 8, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  5. MTATL67

    The President needs to ask the Republican "Why are y'all interested in job so much anymore"

    February 8, 2012 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  6. Data Driven

    60% of Catholics support availability of contraception, 52% of Catholic voters approve of it.

    Wonder why Obama caves all the time? Do the math: it's that 8% of liberal voters who don't vote.

    February 8, 2012 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  7. Hammerer

    Talk about flip flop!
    ANYTHING for a vote!

    February 8, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |

    If I were the White House, i wouldn't be sweating this. I don't see any controversy whasoever. How about keeping church and state seperated so you wouldn't have this issue. I'm not catholic, jewish, mormon, scientologist, buddhist. I'm a christian. And from what I see from these so called evangelicals, I'm not too sure i want to be called that. I'd rather prefer the phrase, "A Child of God." When catholic priests & coaches stop molesting little boys, maybe then I'll take consideration to their contraception dispute.

    February 8, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  9. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    FLIP FLOP!! FLIP FLOP!! FLIP FLOP!!! Obama, a well oiled weather vane!!! Oiled with snake oil of course!!!

    February 8, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  10. Scott

    Obama's Snake Oil on Sale – Git yur lies and deceit here!! – "Yeah, I really REALLY mucked this one up... thought I could sleaze it through without anybody noticing. I should have used more potent snake oil and doubled up on the smoke and mirrors. Live and learn. I promise that if you re-elect me, I'll do much better with the smoke and mirrors in my second term."

    Every time you post some thing, you make less and less sense. Just admit that you don't like the president because he is black, and stop trying to be clever and beat around the bush.

    February 8, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  11. Scott

    Truth and Nothing But the Truth wants to make sure when he rapes women, they have to carry his baby to term so he can feel like a real man. Why not let women decide if they want to take the insurance or not? Oohhh yeah, republicans don't believe in women's rights, unless it's the right to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

    February 8, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  12. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    You pube tards are clueless.

    February 8, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  13. Patriot Awesome

    Once again Obama is being the adult. He understand their concerns and wants to find a reasonable solution. If only the GOP could be as mature.

    February 8, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  14. SPLAT!~

    Catholic business pays worker a wage which they spend on birth control. Catholic provides birth control through insurance. What's the difference, church is still providing the funding?

    February 8, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  15. linda

    This is about women having the right to contraception covered by insurance even if they work in a Catholic hospital etc. If the Catholic hierarchy does not want this then they can refuse the $45 million from the federal goverment that is given to their hospitials of which they own 1 in 8 and are trying to own more to promote their religious agenda. I want the goverment, the church (any church) to stay out of my bedroom, and my dr's office with me. Clean up you hypocritic mess!

    February 8, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  16. sonny chapman

    Ina Nation of 300 Million people, it's hard to sneeze w/out ticking SOMEBODY off. Maybe the Morman's should raise hell about Bigamy Laws ? Can't everybody give just little on THEIR principals so that we can all live a decent life in this truly God Blessed Nation ?

    February 8, 2012 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  17. Four and The Door

    Classic Obama. Ready. Fire. Aim.

    February 8, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  18. Jon in Rochester

    I would think that a woman's health should trump religion anytime. If a woman is raped, these religious fanactics think she should carry the baby of her attacker to full term. The Catholic church is sounding more and more like the Taliban all of the time.

    February 8, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  19. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    Patriot Awesome - Once again Obama is being the adult. He understand their concerns and wants to find a reasonable solution
    And now reality: Obama saw MILLIONS angry over the infringment on religious beliefs and wants to get their votes and not their boots. Problem is that NOW THEY KNOW who he really is!! The SNAKE is out of the box!! They trusted him and supported Obamacare and he made them pay for it by forcing them to violate their religious beliefs. Try as he may, he will not be able to slither out of this one.


    February 8, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  20. tefera

    As newt said two weeks ago Romney is a lair. Even if he did the right thing , I don't trust Mr. Romney. Newt were dead right .

    February 8, 2012 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  21. NVa Native

    If you are a church be a church – if you are a hospital be a hospital.
    We have separation of church and state partly for this same reason.
    What does it take to get through to people ~ while promoting your religion of choice through providing healthcare and then you withhold healthcare because of your religion of choice – it's wrong.
    It's sick. Because if you are there to "do the right thing" and provide healthcare then provide healthcare!

    February 8, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    Do not cave on this, President Obama!

    February 8, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  23. NVa Native

    Scott you are right – these parasites posting tea-bag/GOP hate are the lowest of low – and probably it's just one GOPit under many names being paid to spew out right-wing propaganda.

    February 8, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  24. george of the jungle

    It is to bad the administration needs to work with the church at all. This is about womans rights. all the repo retards hollar about rights,but when it comes to a womans rights they quote the bible. All you repo religious turds, minde your own business, Scott you are right. All these guys don't mind screwing around like newt and caine but then they get all upset over birth control. The church has bigger issues they need to take care of like the pedaphile priest they still have serving in churches.

    February 8, 2012 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  25. NVa Native

    Truth and Nothing But the Truth = Lies and more lies
    The SNAKE is out of the box!!
    The snake oil is you and your pitiful followers no matter what name you use.
    ~ Millions? More like a few radical rightists clamoring for "the good old days that never were".

    We are Americans and we have a society that evolves and flourishes, and those who don’t (like you) will not.

    February 8, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
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