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. Four and The Door

    Do not cave on this, President Obama!
    Classic Obama supporter. Just before being disappointed again.

    February 8, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  2. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    Anonymous - Do not cave on this, President Obama!
    I agree!!!! I want to see Obama 100% FOR SURE GONE in November. Not caving on this would seal the deal.

    February 8, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  3. Free Man

    OBAMA will "say" anything until after the election...

    February 8, 2012 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  4. carrotroot

    A flip-flop would have been a complete reversal of policy. This is not what's happening. The policy remains the same what they are trying to do is find a better work around that would satisfy both groups. However the end result will not change.

    February 8, 2012 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  5. CA Dream USA

    Here's a suggestion...Fist stop r@ping little boys...then you can preach to America about religion.......

    February 8, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    "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."
    One only has to read the responses from the GOP faithful to understand there will never be a consensus of maturity in THAT party again for years to come. The GOP is beyond all hope. Fools that they are, they actually think they're being witty...

    February 8, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  7. American

    This is why many Americans appreciate President Obama's leadership and his willingness to work with others on resolutions.

    February 8, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  8. me

    obama isn't looking out for anyone. he is looking out for his own policial hindend. nothing more gawd I can't wait till he is gone and forgotten

    February 8, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  9. Ken in MD

    Hmmm... the church wants to act like a business but not have to live by the same mandates as all other businesses. They already operate tax-free. Now they want to deprive their employees of the same benefits everyone else gets? Catholic hospitals employ non-Catholics as well, so they shouldn't force their agendas on them. If you want to run a business, you have to live by the rules that govern businesses. Plain and simple.

    February 8, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  10. diridi

    Listen, If a girl wants a pill, let her have. 21st century, what is this nonsense of Religion. when a woman can not afford a child, left abandoned after this woman is cheated by a man. Can she afford? If that child is born, who is to take care of him/her? Is this Tax payer? Is it Church? How long they take care? These are all legitimate questions. So, leave it to pro-choice...Obama12

    February 8, 2012 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  11. jo an

    Remember when the Catholic screamed 'discrimination'....now that they are in control....they are up to their 'old' tricks...taking freedom of choice away from women...the men in the 'pointed hats'...are about one thing...CONTROLLING WOMEN'S BODIES...know any other religions that are into the same thing....HUMMMM

    February 8, 2012 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  12. Freedom From Bedroom Police

    No wonder the Catholic Church does not want Birth Control,Alter Boys do not get pregnant.Let us not forget what was most important to the Church.Covering up the misdeeds of a lot of priests.With over 7 Billion Humans on the Earth is it not the time to practice Birth Control.All the Church wants is to keep making more good Catholics because they give their 10% and it is easy to find Alter Boys.The health of women where do that rate to the Catholic Church?

    February 8, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  13. walleye46

    Since more than 90% of Catholics don't use contraception any way, WHO CARES?

    February 8, 2012 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  14. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    The Catholic church needs to monitor and "control" its' own house. Get our priests to stop molesting our young boys. Stop lambasting gays from the pulpit. Stop inviting groups like Crossroads to speak at the end of mass from the altar. I'm a Catholic woman, who believes in God but not all priests. I also believe in contraception, and a woman's right to abort, and I certainly do not believe that my faith is better than yours,nor that it should be forced down anyone else's throat.
    Back off.

    February 8, 2012 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  15. Get real

    It better be more than Catholics he works the angle for; they are not the only citizens who don't want their first amendment right trampled on. Wake up Obama supporters before it's too late and you find yourself living under a totalitarian regime... no, it's not as far- fetched as you think.

    February 8, 2012 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  16. c'mon america

    President obama listens to people . Isn't that what our elected officials spposed to do ? How is that flip flopping ? How is looking for a compromise bad or weak ? Catholic leaders don't want birth control . Catholic followers do . What can a true leader of a diverse nation do ? Work toward compromise ,thats what ! To nothing but the truth : are you real , or are you just having fun ?

    February 8, 2012 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  17. T'sah from Virginia

    obama isn't looking out for anyone. he is looking out for his own policial hindend. nothing more gawd I can't wait till he is gone and forgotten◄

    If that was the case, then this controversy would have never started in the first place. I think this is what you were referencing???

    ►Obama administration looking to resolve contraception controversy◄
    And he will because 90% of the folks got it all twisted and now need a referee

    Obama 2012

    February 8, 2012 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  18. The GOP opens mouth and inserts foot

    Will everyone just please vote out the GOP? They're ruining our country.

    February 8, 2012 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  19. jon

    as I read the right rambling it's like watching Fox News or Hannity on the radio. When are you going to start thinking for yourself. Birth control only became a issue for the church in the 60's so next time I hear about the church and this is something they have always believed is BS and a Lie. But to think that the church would lie. Where was the right when the priest were raping little boys and girls. Where was the right when those same bishops were moving those same rapist from one church to the next knowing what they were doing.

    February 8, 2012 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  20. ShawnDH

    Avalanche of criticism? A majority of Americans - even American Catholics - approve of this health care reform provision, and the White House should not indulge tantrums by corrupt, oppressive, anti-women old men who have ZERO concern or understanding of women's reproductive health. WHY should 80 year old virgins dictate health care policy? Team Obama all the way.

    February 8, 2012 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  21. Kimberly

    I hope he does NOT cave on this! He will be losing women independent voters, and that is a bigger loss than catholics! The catholics that are against this health care bill are going to be majority republican anyway- The president is right to make ALL business that employ other faiths, like catholic hopitals and schools OFFER birth control. Its insane that some 87 year old MAN in ITALY or "the vatican" is making policy choices for WOMEN in AMERICA!

    February 8, 2012 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  22. Nodak Thought

    Do the christian churches and their followers not see that religous freedom is for all, not just christians? If they are successful in making their beliefs law, we no longer have religous freedom in any real way. This was apparent to the founding fathers! Those that believe that their religous freedom is under attack in this country need to exercise their brains and start THINKING!!! God gave you the talent to do so!

    February 8, 2012 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  23. kilinoecam

    why is it OK in the minds of some for the Catholic Church to impose its religious dogma on the rest of us? Why should the Catholic Church have a different set of rules to follow than all other employers? No one is asking Catholics to use contraception if they don't want to ( and many do want to!) just that the Catholic Church needs to be a responsible employer following the laws of the USA... but then this isn't really about religious freedom is it? No, this is about the republicans preserving stratospheric wages for physicians and trying to maintain that health insurance is only for the privileged few. It is monstrous that, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, the number one cause of bankruptcy is having the lack of foresight to be an accident, or disease, victim. After heroically managing to get universal health care, Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for trying to take access to health care away from the working poor.

    February 8, 2012 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  24. LouAZ

    Bohner – And after we get this No Pill Bill thru Congress, we real American Republican/TPers are going to reinstate stoning of women just like it says in my book that my preacher give me.
    Yee Haw . . . Onward Christian Soldiers !

    February 8, 2012 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  25. jerry

    too late BARRY! We all have your number...know who you are...and we are done with your marxist experiement. Watch the door on you way out...it is closing rapidly!!

    February 8, 2012 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
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