U.S. bishops reject Obama contraception compromise
March 14th, 2012
09:40 PM ET
11 years ago

U.S. bishops reject Obama contraception compromise

(CNN) – An adjustment to a controversial federal rule requiring employers cover contraception in their health insurance plans was labeled "dubious" by an influential group of Roman Catholic bishops on Wednesday.

The rule in question mandated all employers, including religiously affiliated organizations like hospitals and colleges, provide free contraception to employees through health insurance plans. Churches were exempted from the law.

After uproar from conservatives and religious groups, President Barack Obama announced an accommodation to the rule. Under the new plan, insurers will be required to offer complete coverage free to women instead of the religious institutions themselves.

On Wednesday the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said the new rule remained "unspecified and dubious," and said they would seek to engage in conversations with members of Obama's administration to seek a more attractive alternative.

"We will continue to accept any invitation to dialogue with the executive branch to protect the religious freedom that is rightly ours," the bishops said. "We will continue to pursue legislation to restore the same level of religious freedom we have enjoyed until just recently. And we will continue to explore our options for relief from the courts, under the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws that protect religious freedom."

The group also attempted to push back on criticism from liberals that their opposition to the contraception rule was akin to restricting access to forms of birth control.

"This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive, even when it is not provided by the church's hand and with the church's funds," the group wrote.

The statement continued, "Indeed, this is not about the church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the church - consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions - to act against church teachings."
Responding to the bishops, Catholic League President Bill Donohue said the statement "leaves nothing on the table."

"It debunks many myths about this issue: it is not about contraception; it is not just about Catholic religious rights; it is not about the Catholic Church trying to impose its will on others," Donohue wrote. "It is about the federal government trying to impose its agenda on us."

Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest at Georgetown University, said the bishops' statement used "strong and uncompromising" language while not becoming inflammatory.

"The statement's reference to the administration's adaptation as 'unspecified and dubious' highlights the bishops' distrust of the White House and HHS," Reese said. "The bishops do not believe the administration's promises to fix the problem for faith-based organizations and self-insured plans."

Reese pointed out a flaw in the bishops' argument that employers who feel their conscience was violated by providing contraception coverage should be exempted from the law.

"The statement infers that religious liberty is an absolute right that cannot be restricted," Reese said. "If this were true, Mormons and Muslims could practice polygamy and those who believe God demands the separation of the races should be exempted from civil rights legislation."

-CNN’s Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.

Filed under: Religion
soundoff (93 Responses)
  1. anagram_kid

    The one saving grace to this is that eventually the Church will recognize that this policy will impact their ability to recruit and retain top tier employees at their schools and hospitals.

    March 15, 2012 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  2. Phil in KC

    As I understand it, the penalty for failing to comply is a loss of all federal funding. So, the answer is clear – forgo all federal funding and you don't have a problem. Personally, I don't think my public tax dollars should go to religious charities. And anyone who does get federal dollars should abide by the same rules as everyone else, regardless of their religious beliefs.

    March 15, 2012 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  3. Sorensen

    Nobody ever mentions the fact that the corrupt Vatican Bank used to own major shareholdings in swiss birth-control
    pill factories. The more you learn about these guys the more wrotten the whole enterprise is. The dishonest and at
    times directly criminal behaviour of these people, priests, bishops, cardinals, popes, saints and whatever they call
    themselves belong in a nut-case camp in the deep south. There they could practise their hate of jews and women
    under the leadership of Sanatorium. They deserve eachother.

    March 15, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  4. harvey 60

    Please, oh please, explore your options for relief from the courts. Because when you do, Mitch Garabedian and other attorneys a lot smarter than you will be there to question you about your decades of sheltering pedophile priests who broke the law. You aided and abetted criminal behavior and you cloak yourselves in morality? Many of you belong in jail, not trying to shape govenrment policy.

    March 15, 2012 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  5. Steve

    Federal government should immediately cut off every single FEDERAL tax break to every religious group in the US.

    "You want the Fed out...You got it guys!!"


    March 15, 2012 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  6. anagram_kid

    The Church should also deny coverage of any drug that a person must take due to being overweight. To do otherwise condones a sinful lifestyle.

    March 15, 2012 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  7. Christianity Sux

    So the biggest pedophile network in the country doesn't want regular people using contraceptives?

    March 15, 2012 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  8. Christianity Sux

    You know what's missing in the picture above? Women.

    March 15, 2012 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  9. Lolo

    Please tell me why religion is mixed up in politics? The Catholic church or any other church should not have any say on this topic. It is up to the individual. This is getting very old. I know that they have a lot of money, but it should be used for other purposes not politics. These religious fanatics definitely do not follow the Bible. All they are suppose to do is preach the word of God and let their congregation interpret it to the best of their knowledge and put it to good use to aide the world and themselves. Not to use it as a bargaining chip.

    March 15, 2012 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  10. Lolo

    @ Steve – I agree with you.

    March 15, 2012 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  11. Christianity Sux

    It's like Al Queda complaining about religious freedom to carry on jehad in the US.

    March 15, 2012 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  12. Christianity Sux

    "Churches were exempted from the law."

    So, I don't understand why they are complaining about it. Their places are worship are exempt. Only their places of business (Hospitals, Schools) have to follow the laws that by the way apply to all businesses.

    March 15, 2012 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  13. Christianity Sux

    Separation of Church and State =/= Separation of Business (hospitals and schools) and State

    March 15, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  14. J in TX

    Just to get this straight... Contraception is not ok and against their freedom of religion to provide, but Viagra is fine and they have no problems with a recreational drug.

    March 15, 2012 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  15. Rudy NYC

    Why is government intrusion into our private lives considered bad, but when a religious organization invades into our private lives far more intrusively it is considered good?

    March 15, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  16. rs

    I am glad they have rejected it. We are NOT a theocracy. The church's want should have no bearing on public health policy.

    March 15, 2012 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  17. Laverne

    It is clear the republicans have been able to convince the catholic bishops to not compromise because this is a political game afterall. Too bad they lose, they don't get to call the shots and make the rules. They are more concerned about contraception than they were and are about little boys being molested in the catholic church, it is right down AMAZING and DISGRACEFUL!

    March 15, 2012 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  18. bkgrandma

    The picture of the bishops in this article tells it all. They are all older white males who want to tell women what they can and can't do. They have no respect for women or they would let them become priests. The good news is most intellegent Catholic women do not listen to thesE men and I don't think the government should either.

    March 15, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
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