February 7th, 2012
05:02 PM ET

Battle escalates over Obama rule for contraception coverage at Catholic institutions

By Dan Gilgoff and Lesa Jansen, CNN

(CNN) - The battle over a new White House policy compelling Catholic institutions to cover contraception in health insurance plans continues to escalate, with Republican presidential candidates denouncing the rule, liberal groups spotlighting Catholic support for contraception, and the Obama administration vowing to confront religious concerns head on.

"The president's interest is in making sure that … all women here have access to the same preventive care services,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday.

“He is also concerned about and understands the religious concerns that have been raised,” Carney said, stressing that the White House would work to see if “the implementation of the policy can be done in a way that allays some of those concerns.”

Earlier Tuesday, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, David Axelrod, signaled that the president might be open to compromise on the issue.

“We certainly don’t want to abridge anyone’s religious freedoms,” Axelrod said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” “so we’re going to look for a way to move forward that both provides women with the preventative care that they need and respects the prerogatives of religious institutions.”

But the dispute - spurred by a late January announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services that all employers, including Catholic hospitals and schools, will be required to offer free access to FDA-approved contraceptives like the birth control pill and Plan B (the so-called morning-after pill) through health insurance plans - shows no signs of dying down.

”Implementing the policy as is and allaying the concerns are mutually exclusive," Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Tuesday. "If they want to allay concerns, they need to change the policy. Nothing less will do."

Churches are exempt from the policy, which goes into effect August 1, and religious institutions that oppose contraception have been given a yearlong extension to comply.

The Roman Catholic Church, which opposes the use of contraception, continued Tuesday to signal that it is intent on resisting the new policy.

“The bishops aren’t going to stop until this is fixed, and that means pursuing every legal means available to them to fix it,” Picarello said.

The flap was thrust further into the national political spotlight on Tuesday, as Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum attacked the new rule in his victory speech on a night that he swept primaries and caucuses in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado.

The administration had told American Catholics that “you have a right to health care, but you will have the health care that we tell you you have to give your people, whether it’s against the teachings of your church or not,” Santorum said in his Missouri speech.

“I never thought, as a first-generation American, whose parents and grandparents loved freedom and came here because they didn’t want the government telling them what to believe and how to believe … that we’d have a president of the United States who would roll over that and impose his secular values on the people of this country.”

His GOP rival Mitt Romney has continually denounced the Health and Human Services rule in recent weeks.

Speaking in Loveland, Colorado, on Tuesday, Romney said the rule was “in violation of the religious conscience of (Catholic) organizations.”

“This kind of assault on religion will end if I am president of the United States,” he said.

A survey released Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute found that Catholics are divided over whether religious colleges and hospitals should have to provide employees with health insurance that covers birth control at no cost. Forty-five percent of Catholic voters support such a requirement, while 52% oppose it.

“Given how closely divided Catholic voters are over the requirement that religiously affiliated hospitals and colleges provide employees with health care plans that cover contraception,” said Daniel Cox, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute, “it seems unlikely that this issue will galvanize Catholics nationally and seriously undermine Obama's electoral prospects with this important religious constituency.”

Planned Parenthood also released a survey on the rule Tuesday; it found that 53% of Catholics think that women employed by Catholic hospitals and universities should have the same rights to contraceptive coverage as other women.

“The message to Democrats is that this is something all women deserve to have and that religion just shouldn’t be an issue with it,” said Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, which conducted the survey for Planned Parenthood.

Over the past two weekends, the American Catholic hierarchy has distributed letters harshly condemning the Health and Human Services policy to be read at parishes nationwide during Mass.

“We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law,” Kansas City, Kansas, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann wrote in a letter to parishes last weekend. “Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help rebuild America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God-given rights.”

The rule has also drawn the ire of some influential evangelicals. “I'm not a Catholic but I stand in 100% solidarity with my brothers & sisters to practice their belief against govt pressure,” influential California-based pastor Rick Warren said in a tweet Tuesday night.

“I'd go to jail rather than cave in to a govement mandate that violates what God commands us to do,” Warren tweeted in a separate message. “Would you?”

- CNN's Brianna Keilar contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Politics

soundoff (1,120 Responses)
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    April 15, 2013 at 11:13 am |
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    July 28, 2012 at 4:51 am |
  3. Jämför 4G bredband

    Magnificent issues altogether, you just received a new reader. What could you suggest about your post that you made some days ago? Any positive?

    April 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  4. Thiee

    It is a great, great pity Pope Benedict isn't tiyrng as hard to search his organisation, root out and get rid of the paedophiles that litter his Church isn't it?You know that for sure? Do you know what he did to Maciel for instance? Are you aware of the kicking he gave to the Irish bishops? In the Church there are more boys in church choirs than girlsYou know that for sure? Have you gone to your local RC church and checked it out? The chances are the congregation and choir will be mainly women. The introduction of female altar servers has led to this task being dismissed as "girlie" by boys, hence the altar servers now are mostly girls as well. I may be misjudging you, but the point is things may not be as the press chooses to report them. As Liberal Democrats we should know this. The press builds up what it wants to be the story, and reports us in those terms. Mostly it's based on some silly stereotype they have in mind. So they'll look for news or interpretations of news which will support that, they won't report anything that goes against it, and they won't do deep research to find out what is really happening.

    March 2, 2012 at 3:44 am |
  5. Nazir

    Ideally I would like to avoid sliopers. One of the things on my to-do list is implement tags like [spoiler] [/spoiler] for notes/synopsis/character fields that will be invisible by default unless you ask to be spoiled. Then we'll be able to do both.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:01 am |
  6. RDG

    I think if all of these contraceptives should be free and available to every woman or girl who wants them then why should we still have abortions? If I have to help pay for this then I want abortion ended now. If the insurance companies have to provide this "free" service which everyone knows will not be free, then for my part I want abortion ended as soon as this is passed.

    February 10, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
  7. LibrePenseur

    Throughout Human history, the Catholic Church has committed more horrible crimes against Humanity than anybody else. On top of many religious wars/persecution, its opposition to contraception and population control is the main cause for most human tragedies: Famine, spread of AIDS, overpopulation, destruction of rain forest, global warming, war, human rights abuse…The Catholic Church should be spending time taming the uncontrollable God-given libido of its priest instead. Shame on the Vatican!

    February 9, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • Mike McGrady

      Oh and Sharim Hussain is just an alias.

      -From a Devout Roman Catholic

      February 29, 2012 at 4:09 am |
  8. sonotso

    If things didn't escalate there would be no need for contraceptives.

    February 8, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  9. Kelly

    I am going to weigh in, being a catholic and the whole shabang... First of all this is not infringing on anyone's right to practice their religion... Requiring insurance companies to provide contraception for women does not mean the woman has to use it or purchase it... Catholic hospitals take federal funds for their patients, therefore they are not exempt from employment laws... If the Catholic Diocese doesn't want to provide the insurance claiming religious beliefs, then they can no longer accept federal funded patients... They also know that they will be subjected to discrimination lawsuits based hiring and religious discrimination – non-catholics work there, and therefore are being denied healthcare due to catholic beliefs... Majority if not all Catholic women do, have, or had used contraception in their lifetime... God does not nor does the bible say anything about contraception, since it had not been invented yet – so this is a man-made law, made by a bunch of men, who have never had a menstrual cycle – and the pain that comes with it.... and many other reasons for contraception... This is completely different from abortion because the woman never gets pregnant to begin with, so there isn't any of the "so called murders" in this argument... I called my Diocese yesterday and left this very message, that Catholic women do in fact use contraception, and this is a man-made law, and not God's law, and that I hope the Chicago Catholic Diocese would reconsider it's position... Finally I don't want to be like the Duggar's 19 and counting....

    February 8, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • DG

      You have it right Kelly. This really isn't about contraception for Republicans. I can see them saying "We got it! Now we have something to show the religious right that WE are their champions. Lets put that spin on it."

      February 9, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  10. GodPot

    This whole issue reminds me of a little Colorado boy in a baloon...a bunch of good concerned people worried about a hoax.

    February 8, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • GodPot


      February 8, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  11. William

    Just another step Obama is making to destroy this country, He wants us to be another Europe. He is far abortion, illegal immigrants taking us for a ride. I still think Obama is a shadow for some communist org.

    February 8, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • GodPot

      "I still think" I seriously doubt it, but it seems you practice a bit of worthless conjecture.

      February 8, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • DG

      There goes that paranoia kicking in again. You are listening to Limbaugh and Hannity too much again

      February 9, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • Don Herman

      Weren't you RW whacks just complaining about "welfare queens?" Now we provide free birth control and you still itch about it. There's no making you happy.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • acbytesla

      Bull, William,
      "Just another step Obama is making to destroy this country," TALK ABOUT HYPERBOLIC NONSENSE! YOU SOUND LIKE NEWT GRINGRICH!


      "He is far abortion," NO HE'S FOR FREEDOM OF CHOICE,

      I still think Obama is a shadow for some communist org. YEAH, THAT'S WHY OBAMA SUPPORTED TARP HELPING ALL THOSE POOR BANKS!



      February 24, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  12. Reality

    Dear Mr. Obama,

    Still waiting for your yes or no on this:

    For your next news conference–


    To all overse-xed h-o-mo-sapiens:

    : The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-
    Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'"

    Obviously, Planned Parenthood, parents and educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

    February 8, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Don Herman

      Are you advocating utter celibacy or what?

      February 9, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • acbytesla

      Yes and with the lack of Birth control around the world has led to more than 7 billion people, overcrowding conditions, abject poverty, rising infant mortality, shortened life span and a overall lower quality of life.

      While in the meantime, in nations where contraception is readily available, you see manageable population rates, rising incomes, longer lives and much higher quality of life.

      February 24, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  13. QuietStormX

    Major News Networks has trumped up this womman's Health and contraception. First of alll, they fail to notice that 28 States already have this for Catholic's and women. So it should not be an issue here in the United Stated. I'm Catholic and I believe in a Catholic or any woman to deal with her own Health choices, including contraception plus the Plan-B for special instances. So this is made up Hype for nothing. I feel Woman should have their own choice for Health Care period. I'm tired of non CBA woman dictating how younger woman live their life. And Old white men should just stay out of the issue.

    February 8, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.