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. p2bUSA

    These are the men who protect pedophiles. I don't believe most Americans care what they say. As palin sats, It is the media that is making this a big deal.

    March 14, 2012 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  2. PTNY

    No comment.

    March 14, 2012 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  3. Jake

    When did the Church have the right to reject anything the government does? They can say anything they want, but it is not like they have the right to veto what the President and congress do. What exactly is their problem? That employers have to cover womens basic heathcare or that they are allowed by law to use contraception in the first place. The Catholic Churches archane view on this issue is not shared by a large majority of their own members in the nations and by an even larger segment of the population at large.

    March 14, 2012 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  4. Tired of republican lies

    Who cares what you Bishops think??? This country has other than just catholics in this country...People are more diverse than you think.

    March 14, 2012 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  5. Gfoos

    Hey Bishops- stay the HEL L OUT OF POLITICS!!!! The catholic church has a terrible track record on this! Work on the pedophilia thing- THAT needs your full attention!

    March 14, 2012 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  6. Kris

    I'd be happy to locate a priest for you as your "go to" other than the dissenting former America Magazine Jesuit Reese. Your case is weak when you quote only dissenting priests instead of those who actually believe the fullness of what the Catholic faith teaches.

    March 14, 2012 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  7. Josh

    Good thing we are a secular country...

    March 14, 2012 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  8. all republicans slither on their bellies

    When churches stop peddeling their political influence on the parish then they can make the argument that the government has no business telling them what to do start taxing them like any business so decent taxpayers don't have to support them

    March 14, 2012 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  9. Meteorite

    Ok, so they reject it. So what? A bunch of celibate men don't get to decide the welfare of women in America Contraception empowers women to decide if and when to get pregnant.

    March 14, 2012 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  10. Desmond, A CATHOLIC, alas not very Roman

    I imagine that if one is to clearly separate Church from State one will recognize that the legal requirement that employers/insurance companies respect and support the legal personal freedom of people to practise contraception does not for a moment suggest that the said employers/insurance companies support the choices of the persons concerned to practise contraception. President Kennedy did not permit his catholic faith to interfere with the legal requirements of the state and, Santorum, I understand, for all his limitations, acknowledges that he will not either.

    The bishops, who really enjoy a complete lack of credibility, are evidently trying to exercise power which even most Catholics good humouredly dismiss – as demonstrated by the 98% of them who actually practise contraception. It is very sad that the "good" bishops have again jumped on the GOP bandwagon to appear relevant.

    March 14, 2012 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  11. Hawk in Texas

    good, just revoke their tax free status.

    March 14, 2012 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  12. dan5404

    They are still trying to pass their dogmatic beliefs onto the rest of America. The government runs health care, not religious groups. Obama made a serious concession and the Catholics are so immersed in their own traditional power, they don't know when they are looking a gift horse in the mouth. He could have said to just follow the law like everyone else, and keep religion out of government.

    March 14, 2012 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  13. sara

    I wished all these men would is standing their ground on women's right to work and use contraception, would have spoken out on the men who sat in that same sea of colorful anarchy, who were molesting boys for decades.

    March 14, 2012 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  14. Rebecca

    Make no mistake this is about women getting free contraception. The President gave the Bishops an out and they are still not satisfied. They just don't want women to use contraceptives. How disgusting.

    March 14, 2012 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  15. Get real

    Reese is wrong. No matter how you try to spin it, this is about freedom of religion and freedom in general; the government has NO right to force anyone to pay for someone else's contraceptives PERIOD

    March 14, 2012 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  16. george of the jungle

    what's dubious to me is that the bishops are doing anything constructive to take care of the pedaphile problem that they have in the church. Since when do they make policy. ?

    March 14, 2012 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  17. T'sah From Virginia

    What does "religious freedom" have to do with "birth control???" Dang, are we in the 16th century? This war on contraceptives and birth control is getting old. NO ONE is forcing a person that "does not" want to use contraceptives to use it – BUT – Insurance companies should cover it for those who chose to use it or if it medical reasons why they use it – period!!!

    Obama 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!

    March 14, 2012 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  18. palmetto

    Where are the women in the US Bishop's photo? How can a group of men that supposedly take a vow of celibacy (except for when they are with alter boys) be allowed to have an opinion related to women's contraception.

    March 14, 2012 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  19. S. B. Stein E.B. NJ

    The bishops are wrong about this. This is about a non-profit organization being like any other employer out there. I don't know of any other employer that could get away this kind of thing. It is as simple as employees should be able to get access to a full range of health care. This is a denial of that. Please remember that people get their health insurance from their employers for the most part. I would like to see a hospital or university run by the Catholic church that has no one attending or employees that isn't Catholic. A hopsital near me run by the Catholic church has a place for Jews and possibly Muslims. I don't see why they can't do this one thing.

    March 14, 2012 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  20. windrider2

    The bishops have apparently forgotten that the Supreme Court has held (more than once) that Catholic universities and hospitals are NOT churches, but businesses, and are required to follow the same labor/employer laws as any other business. They do NOT have the same ministerial exemptions of a church or parochial school. I cannot imagine they would rule any differently in this case. And the mandate was for preventive care that included, but is not limited to, contraceptives. It also includes yearly wellness checks, vaccinations, diabetes/cholesterol screenings, mammograms, pap smears, colonoscopies, etc. The bishops decided to make it a religious argument about contraceptives, disregarding prior SCOTUS rulings and discounting the many medical reasons for which hormone treatment is the only non-surgical remedy.

    March 14, 2012 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  21. Csm. Wiggins son

    As a Christian I have to say leave my religion out of politics. We are here only to offer gods words. It's up to the person to accept him into there hearts. We should not force our religion on any group that causes oppression. That's the difference between I and conservatives. His word never said to force our religion in any one.

    March 14, 2012 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  22. d

    I do not care what the church thinks...we have seperation of church and state so bishops butt out!

    March 14, 2012 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  23. Doyle Wiley, MI

    The Bishops time would be better spent removing the petifiles from their ranks.

    March 14, 2012 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  24. svann

    Simple answer – if you are a church dont hire people. Just go with volunteers. No reason the church should be able to open businesses on the side and demand that their businesses be treated as if they are also churches.

    March 14, 2012 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  25. Republican who supports President Obama

    Seperation of church and state. They should either abide by the compromise or lose their tax exempt status all together. They should not be treated any differently than any other employer. Period.

    March 14, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
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