Contraception fight heats up
February 15th, 2012
08:34 PM ET
11 years ago

Contraception fight heats up

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama's shift on the thorny issue of contraception insurance coverage announced last week was no compromise at all, congressional opponents said Wednesday.

The president is "using the strong arm of government to force all Americans to pay for drugs and procedures that may violate" their religious beliefs and rights, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Nebraska, said during a Capitol Hill news conference.

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Fortenberry, who was flanked by more than a dozen mostly-Republican lawmakers, is the sponsor of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which he said would protect the religious liberty and conscience rights of those who object to the Department of Health and Human Services' mandate to pay for contraceptive drugs and procedures. He said his legislation currently has 190 supporters in the House.

"These providers and other Americans are left with a choice: Follow your deeply-held beliefs and convictions, or obey President Obama. That's a false choice," said Fortenberry. "No American should be forced to choose between their faith and their job."

The lone Democrat at the event, Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Illinois, said all Obama offered was "a vague statement about who's going to pay for what."

"Nothing has really changed," Lipinski said. "It's nothing but a shell game."

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, said Obama's compromise is worse than his original Jan. 20 announcement mandating most employers to cover birth control in employee health care plans with no co-pays or deductibles.

"It [the compromise] will end up forcing religious institutions to pay for services indirectly that they will not pay for directly because it violates their firmly-held moral and religious beliefs," said Sensenbrenner.

President Barack Obama announced the accommodation Friday in the dispute over whether to require full contraception insurance coverage for female employees at religiously affiliated institutions.

Under the new plan, religiously affiliated universities and hospitals will not be forced to offer contraception coverage to their employees. Insurers will be required, however, to offer complete coverage free of charge to women who work at such institutions.

Female employees at churches themselves will have no guarantee of any contraception coverage - a continuation of current law.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops denounced Obama's compromise last week soon after the president's announcement, saying the proposal raises "serious moral concerns," according to a statement posted on its website.

Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana, the only senator at Wednesday's press conference, said Obama's accommodation changed nothing.

"Everyone who has looked at the substance of that agrees it hasn't changed anything," Vitter said.

"To play some word game and say, 'No, the Feds aren't telling the entities what coverage they have to buy, they're simply telling the insurance company what coverage they have to provide,' doesn't change the reality," Vitter said.

Rep. Donald Manzullo, R-Illinois. said the fight is by no means over.

"We're ready to march with the cardinals, with the priests, with the bishops, with other clergy, and other people who deeply fear the fact that this is just another assault upon faith in our country," Manzullo said.

Fortenberry said he drafted his bill about a year ago, anticipating the new health care law would intrude upon Americans' rights to religious freedom and rights of conscious.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has not announced any timing for moving forward with Fortenberry's legislation, but has indicated that any legislation developed in the House would go through the Energy and Commerce Committee before the full House votes on it.

A Democratic Leadership aide told CNN a planned senate vote on the issue probably will not take place until after next week's recess.

- CNN's Deirdre Walsh and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

Also see:

Gingrich: Santorum 'misunderstands' modern warfare

Santorum slams Obama administration as 'elite snobs'

Romney surrogates attack Santorum's record

CNN Poll: Romney's likability fading

CNN Poll: Gender and income gaps in GOP nomination battle

Filed under: Congress • Faith • President Obama
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Reader in So. Cal

    I wonder how many women were at the press conference. I wonder how many of the 190 supporters are women.

    February 15, 2012 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  2. Sage Sophos

    THIS IS INVALID ARGUMENT "It [the compromise] will end up forcing religious institutions to pay for services indirectly that they will not pay for directly because it violates their firmly-held moral and religious beliefs," said Sensenbrenner." A TRUE CHRISTIAN NEEDS NO CONTRACEPTIONS close your legs case closed if not the moral thing to do get knocked off take both take responsibility.

    February 15, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  3. Steve

    If women don't want to get pregnant or an STD then either buy your own condoms and birth control or stop having sex. Women's health. Take care of yourself.

    February 16, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  4. ThinkAgain

    There's no "assault on faith" in the US. Christmas is a paid holiday, and all religious institutions are tax-exempt.

    BTW, in 2010, the Catholic church received $2.9 BILLION in federal dollars, which is 62% of their revenue. And since the church pays no taxes, they get to keep every cent of their "revenue". Where is the public outcry demanding that these funds have not been used to pay abuse lawsuit settlements?

    Most taxpayers are not Catholic, and yet we are subsidizing this church.

    Talk about the government "strong-arming" people! I emphatically DO NOT support the Catholic church, and yet my tax dollars fund them. This violates the non-establishment clause of the Constitution and SHOULD BE STOPPED.

    February 16, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  5. ThinkAgain

    "this is just another assault upon faith in our country"

    But it was OK when you were all against building the Muslim Community Center in Manhattan, right?


    February 16, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  6. Mary Nelson

    What's next, "my religion doesn't believe in roads, schools, police, national defense, firefighters, or public parks, so I should be exempt from paying my fair share of those things too"?

    February 16, 2012 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  7. George

    One would think that Vitter, with his long association with ladies for hire, would be more vigilant about birth control access.

    February 16, 2012 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  8. Desmond in Canada

    It must be more and more embarrassing to be a GOP these days.

    February 16, 2012 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  9. enuff

    By the same token the, a Mormon shop owner does not have to allow a black man in his store because it will step on their "religious" rights. Or change it out to Musilm and Jew.

    February 16, 2012 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  10. John in Brooklyn

    Sad that the radical Republicans and the Vatican-funded campaign agsint the right of women to own their own bodies' reproduction is leading to a debate whether the laws in 35 state laws ensuring protection against insurance provider discrimination on reproduction will be violated if the Republicans and the Vatican/Shia agenda is enacted.

    February 16, 2012 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  11. DixonIV

    To bad the Catholic church wasn't this active when their own people were assaulting children. I believe the cost of insurance is part of the employees pay and benifits package. That is something earned by the employee. So why is it that this is considered something the church is paying for. I sure don't want the church deciding what my earnings are used for.

    February 16, 2012 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  12. Marry

    “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act”? What Conscience???? Theirs???? Those Republicans should call it the “Respect for Rights of Incompetence Act”, – now here they would be experts and they should sign it and the voter will know who should stay home after the election. On second thought, they already signed enough “pledges” that prove they are incompetent to work for US!

    February 16, 2012 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  13. logicnLA

    Another perosn that doesn't undersatnd civil law and church law. Obama and the Congress work on civel laws. what that man and the religious followers of the various churches believe is their choice. They have no right to affect national laws.

    February 16, 2012 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  14. J.V.Hodgson

    This so called fight does not heat up. The media are making and CERTAIN STAUNCH dogmatic religions are saying government is telling us us to disobey our religious beliefs and tenets. Not correct.
    Get real, Catholics etc are not the total religious universe in the US, nor do you have the right to impose your catechism or religious encyclicals on ALL OF US. and many do already use contraceptives.
    The governments purpose is to serve ALL of the people, for ALL the people, by ALL of the people, and the inalienable right to choose thier religion and how to pursue thier individual happiness.
    The government simply says all medical insurers must offer these contraceptives free and with no co-pays in the public health and national welfare interest.
    You do not want to use them at all catechism etc. Feel free not to and practice perfectly your religious belief or dogma.
    The logic of the media, Santorum et al is so flawed its untrue, every male Catholic or any other opposed religion can walk into a mens room and from a vending machine buy a condom and use it.Even now any woman can go to a doctor and ask for the "Pill" and get it even if she has to hunt down an amenable doctor.
    Having been a sort of reasonably affluent middle class type me and mt wife together made sure we did not have unplanned/ unwanted children and we have pursued all our basic freedoms an inalienable rights, and sure we have committed sins per our religious leaders tenets..... but we are still in there and doing a lott of our pursuit of individual happiness!!

    February 16, 2012 02:23 am at 2:23 am |
  15. marginwalker

    The first amendment to the Constitution states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,..." This Respect for Rights of Conscience Act is clearly in violation of that.

    February 16, 2012 03:08 am at 3:08 am |
  16. John Smith...

    What's next for the GOP? Women right to vote?

    February 16, 2012 04:32 am at 4:32 am |
  17. T'sah from Virginia

    ►Contraception fight heats up◄
    And VIAGRA gets "gulped" down – And PAID FOR!! That's those men from the RIGHT – Can't "get it up" and get help – In the meantime, they want to keep ALL women barefooted – in the kitchen – and "PREGNANT!!!"

    Men from the LEFT are much different – take the Viagra; put some shoes on their woman – go out dancing – EAT OUT – go home and NOT CARE whether or not the jacket is on but will ask, “You took your pill???” LMAO

    Obama 2012 – Vote Democrat down the entire ballot!!!!

    February 16, 2012 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  18. ARTRaveler

    No one is forced to buy or use anything. The law says "make available". It doesn't force anyine to use contracedoptives. Go ahead and see if you can beaty the Duggar count if you like just have the money to may for their food and care.

    February 16, 2012 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
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