President Obama Adjusts Birth Control Policy After Protests

By: Ben Feller, AP White House Correspondent
By: Ben Feller, AP White House Correspondent

President Obama Adjusts Birth Control Policy After Protests

Washington, D.C. (AP) - President Barack Obama, struggling with a political storm that threatened to keep building, announced a birth control compromise Friday that he said would both protect religious liberties and ensure that the nation's women have access to free contraception.

After weeks of growing controversy, Obama backed off a recently announced requirement for religious-affiliated employers to provide free birth control coverage even if it runs counter to their beliefs. Instead, workers at such institutions will be able to get free contraception directly from health insurance companies.

"Religious liberty will be protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women," Obama said in an appearance in the White House briefing room.

"I understand some folks in Washington want to treat this as another political wedge issue. But it shouldn't be. I certainly never saw it that way," Obama said. "This is an issue where people of good will on both sides of the debate have been sorting through some very complicated questions."

Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, head of the nation's Roman Catholic bishops, said the changes were a "first step in the right direction." But he also said there were too few details to know whether the changes addressed the church's objections.

The president's abrupt shift was an attempt to satisfy both sides of a deeply sensitive debate, and most urgently, to end a mounting political nightmare for the White House.

Although the administration had originally given itself more than year to work out the details of the new birth control coverage requirement for religious employers, the president acknowledged that the situation had become untenable and demanded a swift solution.

Congressional Republicans as well as GOP presidential hopefuls were beating up on Obama relentlessly over the issue, and even Democrats and some liberal groups allied with the Roman Catholic church were defecting.

"After the many genuine concerns that have been raised over the last few weeks, as well as frankly the more cynical desire on the part of some to make this into a political football," Obama said, "it became clear that spending months hammering out a solution was not going to be an option. That we needed to move this faster." He said he directed the Department of Health and Human Services last week to speed up the process.

Women will still get guaranteed access to birth control without co-pays or premiums no matter where they work, a provision of Obama's health care law that he insisted must remain. But religious universities and hospitals that see contraception as an unconscionable violation of their faith can refuse to cover it, and insurance companies will then have to step in to do so.

The White House did get the backing of one important Catholic organization, as well as a prominent women's group.

"The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed," Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, a trade group representing Catholic hospitals that had fought against the birth control requirement, said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood also backed the revisions, saying the Obama administration was still committed to ensuring all women have access to birth control coverage, no matter where they work.

"We believe the compliance mechanism does not compromise a woman's ability to access these critical birth control benefits," Cecile Richards, the women's group president, said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., an ardent support of the original measure, was restrained in her response.

"I appreciate the president's unifying approach as we work to ensure that the American people continue to receive the benefits of health care reform."

By keeping free contraception for employers at religious workplaces -- but providing a different way to do it -- Obama was able to assert he gave no ground on the basic principle of full preventive care that matters most to Obama.

Yet, it also was clear that the president felt he had no choice but to retreat on a three-week-old policy in the face of a fierce political furor that showed no signs of cooling.

Officials said Obama has the legal authority to order insurance companies to provide free contraception coverage directly to workers. He will demand it in a new rule.

Following an intense White House debate that led to the original policy, officials said Obama seriously weighed the concerns over religious liberty, leading to the revamped decision.

Before announcing the revamped policy at the White House, Obama called Keehan, Richards and Dolan.

The change just led to more criticism from some of Obama's opponents. Texas Republican Rep. Kevin Brady said the revamped rule marked a "full scale retreat by a disconnected president who now knows that Washington shouldn't force American to abandon their religious convictions

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, while not commenting directly on Obama's decision, told a conservative conference in Washington that if elected, "I will reverse every single Obama regulation that attacks our religious liberty and threatens innocent life in this country."

It was just on Jan. 20 that the Obama administration announced that religious-affiliated employers -- outside of churches and houses of worships -- had to cover birth control free of charge as preventative care for women. These hospitals, schools and charities were given an extra year to comply, until August 2013, but that concession failed to satisfy opponents, who responded with outrage.

Catholic cardinals and bishops across the country assailed the policy in Sunday Masses. Republican leaders in Congress promised emergency legislation to overturn Obama's move. The president's rivals in the race for the White House accused him of attacking religion. Prominent lawmakers from Obama's own party began openly deriding the policy.

The sentiment on the other side, though, was also fierce. Women's groups, liberal religious leaders and health advocates pressed Obama not to cave in on the issue.

The furor has consumed media attention and threatened to undermine Obama's re-election bid just as he was in stride with improving economic news. Political reality forced the White House to come up with a solution to a complex matter must faster than anticipated.

Under the new policy, religious employers will not be required to offer contraception and will not have to refer their employees to places that provide it. Instead, the employer's insurance company must provide birth control for free in a separate arrangement with workers who want it.

The change will still take affect with an extra year built in, in August 2013.

Already, 28 states had required health insurance plans to cover birth control before the federal regulations were issued.

However, they appear to have differing exemptions for religious employers.

Obama's health care law requires most insurance plans to cover women's preventative services, without a co-pay, starting on Aug. 1, 2012. Those services include well-women visits, domestic violence screening and contraception, all designed to encourage health care that many women may otherwise find unaffordable.

The White House says covering contraception saves insurance companies money by keeping women healthy. But the plan is likely to meet resistance from insurers. Although administration officials are right that contraception is cost effective, insurers may well argue that it's not free, either. And the industry might balk at what amounts to a coverage mandate on it.

Without adjusting his stand, Obama has risked alienated Catholics who have become courted swing voters in such pivotal political states as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. In 2008, Obama won 54 percent of the total Catholic vote, compared to 45 percent for Republican John McCain.

As the week wore on, the White House increasingly signaled that a change was coming.

Vice President Joe Biden, a Catholic, said in a radio interview Thursday that "there is going to be a significant attempt to work this out and there is time to do that."

Outside advocates were urging a quick resolution.

"As a Catholic I don't want to hear about this in Mass every week until the election," said Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats For Life of America. "I don't think it's good for the party and I don't think it's good for Obama's re-election chances."

----

Associated Press writers Erica Werner and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this story.

----------------------------------------------

President Obama Revamping Birth Control Policy

WASHINGTON (AP) - Feb. 10, 2012 -

Retreating in the face of a political uproar, President Barack Obama on Friday will announce that religious employers will not have to cover birth control for their employees after all, The Associated Press has learned. The administration instead will demand that insurance companies will be the ones directly responsible for providing free contraception.

Obama's abrupt shift is an attempt to satisfy both sides of a deeply sensitive debate, and most urgently, to end a mounting election-year nightmare for the White House.

Women will still get guaranteed access to birth control without co-pays or premiums no matter where they work, a provision of Obama's health care law that he insisted must remain. But religious universities and hospitals that see contraception as an unconscionable violation of their faith can refuse to cover it, and insurance companies will then have to step in to do so.

Obama will speak about his decision at 12:15 p.m. EST.

Senior administration officials confirmed the details to the AP but insisted they remain anonymous in advance of the president's announcement.

By keeping free contraception for employers at religious workplaces -- but providing a different way to do it -- the White House will assert it gave no ground on the basic principle of full preventative care that matters most to Obama.

Yet, it also was clear that Obama felt he had no choice but to retreat on a three-week-old policy in the face of a fierce political furor that showed no signs of cooling.

The White House consulted leaders on both sides of the debate to forge a decision.

And officials said Obama has the legal authority to order insurance companies to provide free contraception coverage directly to workers. He will demand it in a new rule.

Following an intense White House debate that led to the original policy, officials said Obama seriously weighed the concerns over religious liberty, leading to the revamped decision.

It was just on Jan. 20 that the Obama administration announced that religious-affiliated employers -- outside of churches and houses of worships -- had to cover birth control free of charge as preventative care for women. These hospitals, schools and charities were given an extra year to comply, until August 2013, but that concession failed to satisfy opponents, who responded with outrage.

Catholic cardinals and bishops across the country assailed the policy in Sunday Masses. Republican leaders in Congress promised emergency legislation to overturn Obama's move. The president's rivals in the race for the White House accused him of attacking religion. Prominent lawmakers from Obama's own party began openly deriding the policy.

The sentiment on the other side, though, was also fierce. Women's groups, liberal religious leaders and health advocates pressed Obama not to cave in on the issue.

The furor has consumed media attention and threatened to undermine Obama's re-election bid just as he was in a stride over improving economic news. Political reality forced the White House to come up with a solution to a complex matter must faster than anticipated.

The fact that Obama himself will deliver the news was a sign of the stakes.

Under the new policy, religious employers will not be required to offer contraception and will not have to refer their employees to places that provide it.

If such an employer opts out, the employer's insurance company must provide birth control for free in a separate arrangement with workers who want it.

The change will still take affect with an extra year built in, in August 2013.

Already, 28 states had required health insurance plans to cover birth control before the federal regulations were issued.

However, they appear to have differing exemptions for religious employers.

Obama's health care law requires most insurance plans to cover women's preventative services, without a co-pay, starting on Aug. 1, 2012. Those services include well women visits, domestic violence screening and contraception, all designed to encourage health care that many women may otherwise find unaffordable.

The White House says covering contraception saves insurance companies money by keeping women healthy; how the insurance industry will see the mandate is another question.

Without adjusting his stand, Obama has risked alienated Catholics who have become courted swing voters in such pivotal political states as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. In 2008, Obama won 54 percent of the total Catholic vote, compared to 45 percent for Republican John McCain.

As the week wore on, the White House increasingly signaled that a change was coming.

Vice President Joe Biden, a Catholic, said in a radio interview Thursday that "there is going to be a significant attempt to work this out and there is time to do that."

Outside advocates were urging a quick resolution.

"As a Catholic I don't want to hear about this in Mass every week until the election," said Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats For Life of America. "I don't think it's good for the party and I don't think it's good for Obama's re-election chances."


You must be logged in to post comments.

Username:
Password (case sensitive):
Remember Me:

Read Comments

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Abel on Feb 16, 2012 at 03:17 PM
    Ever notice the last four letters in the word republican? i can! The last four letters in democrats!RATS!Ironic isn't it? The truth hurts you liberals!
    • reply
      by George on Feb 16, 2012 at 06:16 PM in reply to Abel
      That is prophetic!
  • by conservative democrat on Feb 15, 2012 at 04:20 AM
    We have sat back too long and it is time for us to fight and force our better society on people. They will hate us now but we know our way is better and will thank us for it in the end.
    • reply
      by true conservative democrat on Feb 16, 2012 at 06:19 AM in reply to conservative democrat
      this comment was made by Anonymous not the real conservative democrat!!
      • reply
        by conservative democrat on Feb 16, 2012 at 02:58 PM in reply to true conservative democrat
        the above comment was made by an imposter
        • reply
          by democrats are thieves and liars on Feb 29, 2012 at 08:35 AM in reply to conservative democrat
          either way yall both suck,i bet that you both live off of the taxpayers.to lazy to look for a job.im sure yall just love obama
  • by Cat Location: Tall on Feb 15, 2012 at 02:01 AM
    Obama didn't change a bloody thing. Smoke and mirrors that's all.
  • by Todd Location: Monticello on Feb 14, 2012 at 06:10 AM
    Heyy , Church girls , then come to the park in town , while I walk my pup.......and lets make some babies
  • by Kevin aka Reality Location: Monticello on Feb 14, 2012 at 06:05 AM
    Then ...is the Church going to foot the Bill for all these extra kids running around , its alot cheaper to nip it early then pay for 18 years. Oh thats right , cant do that either , the Reverand needs a brand new car and house in the Bahamas...sorry folks.
    • reply
      by gerry on Feb 15, 2012 at 04:07 AM in reply to Kevin aka Reality
      The government creates the problem by paying for kids. Then when the kids have no incentive to play safe (if I mess up the government will take care of us) the welfare rolls explode. Now the government has two choices. Move the responsibility back onto the individual and let each pay for their own, or spend more money to fix the original problem we created. I'm all for ending welfare and that would save us even more.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 13, 2012 at 04:27 AM
    The purpose of the constitution is too limit government so people have liberty....freedom to make their own choices....right or wrong....and then enjoy or live with those consequences.....
    • reply
      by Gerry on Feb 13, 2012 at 05:04 PM in reply to
      I thought the purpose of the US Constitution was spelled out in its Preamble. I think some Tea Party cretin is talking about limiting government.
      • reply
        by Real Gerry on Feb 15, 2012 at 04:08 AM in reply to Gerry
        Read the minutes written by Madison sometimes. You'd be amazed at how smart they were and how screwed up liberals are
  • by It's about human dignity. on Feb 13, 2012 at 03:41 AM
    The irony is that most Catholics who have zero comprehension what their faith entails elected this community organizers. Catholic Priests who were fearful to teach anything about faith and morals to he left cowered in fear to explain how birth control or abortifacients assault he human dignity of human personage. Well... You have a lot of catching up to do. Proud that the Bishops in the USA are facing the nightmare they allowed to happen and are trying to fix it!
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Feb 13, 2012 at 08:03 AM in reply to It's about human dignity.
      spot on
  • by Anonymous on Feb 12, 2012 at 06:37 PM
    And if there had been birth control available in Hawaii over 51 years ago this would all be a non-issue.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Feb 12, 2012 at 07:43 PM in reply to Anonymous
      Way Funny but I bet the democrats can't figure it out. Get MSNBC to translate and draw them a picture.
      • reply
        by conbservative democrat on Feb 14, 2012 at 07:41 AM in reply to
        fox news translated it for you!!
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Feb 15, 2012 at 04:09 AM in reply to conbservative democrat
          I heard that on NBC
    • reply
      by conservative democrat on Feb 14, 2012 at 07:41 AM in reply to Anonymous
      and you would not be here either, the best part of you ran on the sheets or back seat more like it!! and i'll bet you tea party republicans need fox news to spells this one out for you!!
      • reply
        by Cat on Feb 15, 2012 at 02:02 AM in reply to conservative democrat
        You need to change your handle. Conservative and Democrat are a contradiction in terms.
        • reply
          by conservative democrat on Feb 16, 2012 at 06:22 AM in reply to Cat
          only to you tea party republicans whao think conserving means conserving it all for the rich and wealthy !!
      • reply
        by conservative democrat on Feb 15, 2012 at 04:27 AM in reply to conservative democrat
        “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
        • reply
          by true conservative on Feb 16, 2012 at 06:23 AM in reply to conservative democrat
          and you Anonymous refuse to believe what is true because you continue to believe in the republican tea party way!!
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Feb 16, 2012 at 10:55 PM in reply to conservative democrat
        LOL. No, I was "planned" and I am guessing that you were "not" given your very detailed portrayal of your own conception at the trailer park. Not a tea party member and tore up the Democratic voter's registration when I saw who the players were with the past election. I am just someone capable of independent thought and I am guessing again that you are "not" as well as lacking in humor. CD try watching CNBC, read Wall Street Journal, etc...for more intelligent information.
  • by GW on Feb 11, 2012 at 11:58 AM
    Yeah and Car Insurance Companies should offer free tires and oil changes
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Feb 12, 2012 at 05:23 AM in reply to GW
      but only if they don't raise premiums, the rich people have to pay for theirs and the poor people's, you can buy the insurance after you get a flat tire and need an oil change, and we prove it will make car costs go down.....HAHAHAHAHAHAHA
  • by the beginning on Feb 11, 2012 at 10:48 AM
    let's back up. people used to use common sense when it came to birth control. it was available at health clinics, both local and school, planned parenthood and more. then we moved on to 'education' about sex. the more we moved on as a society, the lower the level of common sense. now the government has gotten involved and there is less common sense out there. and now this subject has become a hotspot for campaigning for office. where has common sense gone, people?
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Feb 12, 2012 at 05:24 AM in reply to the beginning
      COMMON SENSE? Our education system has dumbed down a whole generation who cannot think for themselves and need the government to tell them what to do.
      • reply
        by the beginning on Feb 12, 2012 at 03:17 PM in reply to
        that's what I was saying, people used to use common sense. Somewhere along the way, the level got lowered, and then sex education was on the rise. people have gotten so used to being told what to do instead of thinking for themselves...
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Feb 12, 2012 at 07:44 PM in reply to the beginning
          too much MSNBC
      • reply
        by conservative democrat on Feb 14, 2012 at 07:43 AM in reply to
        fox news and the tea party republicans is to blame for this!!
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Feb 15, 2012 at 04:09 AM in reply to conservative democrat
          NBC controlled by Obama and conservative democrat proof
  • Page:
WCTV 1801 Halstead Blvd. Tallahassee, FL 32309
Copyright © 2002-2016 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 139091314 - wctv.tv/a?a=139091314
Gray Television, Inc.