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. enuff

    First off, how can a bishop say that contraceptives are inexpensive? I've paid $30 per month WITH insurance. This is primarily to control cycles and to keep an eye on ovarian cycts. it's not about just contraception – it's about insurance coverage!

    March 14, 2012 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  2. dreamer96

    Well under U.S. worker right laws, the Catholic Church still has to do it...they can not impose their religious views on their workers either...and considering the average Catholic family is 3 to 4 kids and not the 10 or 12 of a few decades ago.before the pill and other forms of birth control, .the Catholic women must be and 98% say they are using birth control...The U.S, does not let the Catholic Church burn the mentally ill as witches in front of their churches anymore either..

    March 14, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  3. Cubanon

    What do you expect from a bunch of old men living in the dark ages!

    March 15, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  4. S.positive

    Who cares, with the boys still being abused in the church, bunch of hypocrites to me. Focus on self cleaning first and then you can start regaining credibility...

    March 15, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  5. Thomas

    It's easy to understand why the Catholic Church is shrinking in size .

    The photo of the all male Roman Catholic bishops says it all .
    How can the Catholic church in this day and age condemn the use of contraceptives in regards to family planing.

    March 15, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  6. CBR

    The bishops have the right to their opinion. They do not have the right to foist their opinions on women when women are not allowed to be part of the decision-making.

    March 15, 2012 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  7. Chris

    Well said, Fr. Reese. The Jesuits remain one of the last voices of sanity and reason in the Church.

    March 15, 2012 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  8. Chris

    I know for a fact that not all Catholic Bishops share the hardline view being voiced by the leadership of the USCCB. Where are these bishops? Why aren't we hearing from them? Has the authoritarianism of the Church reached such great heights that even the voice of conscience is being squelched?

    March 15, 2012 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  9. Satberry

    Since the catholic church is rejecting contraceptives,they should also reject all the freaky priest.The countless ones who molest little boys,and start paying taxes.

    March 15, 2012 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  10. enuff

    I don't care WHO the employer is, the minute they tell me that they will not provide WHATEVER healthcare I PAY FOR because it's against THEIR "moral conscious", they have crossed a line.

    March 15, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  11. Ben Thare

    The Chruch rejects contraception, but has no problem allowing its pedophile priests to molest children.

    March 15, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  12. Briton

    Indeed, this is not about the church wanting to force anybody to do anything.......bla bla bla

    March 15, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  13. Iamnotfooled

    Their own followers do not obey their arcaic rules. Even Catholic women use contraception. Does not mean they are promiscuous. Women (and the men who love them) and their doctors should decide. Not a religious group of men.

    March 15, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  14. It comes down to this. A fair trade.

    Here is my proposal. I think it is only fair.

    If the Catholic bishops think that they should be able to overrule major health legislation in the United States, I demand that the people of the United States should get to select the bishops.

    March 15, 2012 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  15. mississippi

    Do the bishop's not know the different in church n work place

    March 15, 2012 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  16. craig

    In case these "guys" didn't notice, according to some polls 97% of the women in your church don't believe what you're saying and ignore your "teaching" about birth control. In short, you're really out of touch with reality. And, you might also wish to consider the FACT that many women have other medical issues that hormonal therapy, aka Birth Control Pills, alleviate. And, just for the record, since there isn't a single woman in your group, exactly where do you get any first-hand information or input about your policies? Do you simply talk to God...who, according to your teachings, isn't a female either. Seems like a pretty significant disconnect to me.

    March 15, 2012 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
  17. Gezellig

    In the South when I was growing up they were fighting desegregation, not because they were defending segregation, but because they were instead defending States Rights. The statements above seem eerily similar.

    March 15, 2012 02:16 am at 2:16 am |
  18. jimw

    Don't they look like a group of people who would know about contraception.

    March 15, 2012 02:44 am at 2:44 am |
  19. Mike H.

    Well...if nothing else, we're seeing just how much the Catholic officials are about control over exercise of doctrine by followers. Government has crossed paths with religion before for the better good of society - blood transfusions, polygamy, sacrifices, vaccines, and so forth.... Why should Catholics be any different when they are clearly standing in the way of human rights?

    March 15, 2012 04:30 am at 4:30 am |
  20. steve

    I guess should spend your time more wisely and clean up your own mess before you start on anyone else. They all sound just like Santorum, not a clue to life. No need for Cardinals, just a wasted space

    March 15, 2012 05:29 am at 5:29 am |
  21. ddblah

    Great! I actually was worried if they accept. They actually think they have clout. Poor things!

    March 15, 2012 05:38 am at 5:38 am |
  22. stonesrule

    Totalitarian government at its best. We are witnessing the downfall of the United States at breakneck speed under the current administration. So much for being a nation of laws – when the government does whatever it pleases our freedom and liberty are gone...

    March 15, 2012 05:50 am at 5:50 am |
  23. Marry

    The bishops are a group of „religious“, stubborn, never understanding, old men that are afraid to lose control. They can’t cope with the fact that they have already long lost on this and other issues because, modern (catholic) woman think for themselfs and do not give a hoot of what the church says how they have to live their lives! And that are good woman who have more of a feeling how to live a responsible, Christian live than the bishops ever had or have!
    Another big plus point for President Obama – he understands the difficulties of life and shows in an exemplary manner how to deal with them gracefully and effectively!

    March 15, 2012 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  24. Dave

    Perhaps the Catholic Church needs a little reminder that this is not a theocracy. Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion.

    March 15, 2012 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  25. Sponge-Bob

    Hopefully the whole thing gets struck down in the Supreme Court then this will all be a moot point.

    March 15, 2012 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
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