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Key Catholic group drops support for White House contraception plan
The Obama administration wants to require insurance companies to provide free contraception coverage.
June 18th, 2012
11:24 AM ET

Key Catholic group drops support for White House contraception plan

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – The Obama administration’s key Catholic ally on its controversial plan to require health insurers to provide free contraceptive coverage is dropping support for the plan, potentially complicating the president’s relations with Catholics in an election year.

The Catholic Health Association, which comprises 2,000 Catholic hospitals, health systems and related organizations, said Friday that although it had initially supported what the White House called a compromise on the contraception issue, it is now “deeply concerned” about the plan and says the White House “has not relieved our initial concerns.”

Many Catholic groups expressed opposition to the Obama administration’s proposal to require employers to provide free contraception coverage to their employees. Although the plan exempted churches, other religiously affiliated employers - including colleges and hospitals - were not exempt.

In the face of that opposition, the Department of Health and Human Services tweaked its original rule in February to require health insurers, not employers, to cover the cost of contraception coverage, reasoning that would prevent Catholics instructions from having to finance such coverage.

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The so-called compromise won support from certain Catholic groups, most significantly the Catholic Health Association, which calls itself the nation’s largest group of nonprofit health care providers.

“The Catholic Health Association is very pleased with the White House announcement that a resolution has been reached that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions,” Sister Carol Keehan, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association, said in a February statement.

But on Friday, the Catholic Health Association sounded a much different line, saying in a letter to the agency that “We remain deeply concerned … with the approach the Administration has taken with respect to contraceptive services, especially abortifacient drugs and sterilization.”

The administration denies that its contraception mandate covers abortifacients - drugs that cause abortions - but some socially conservative groups disagree.

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In its letter, the Catholic Health Association urged the administration to broaden its exemption on the contraceptive mandate to include different kinds of religiously affiliated institutions.

The American Roman Catholic bishops have steadfastly criticized the Health and Human Services rule. The Catholic Health Association’s support for the rule gave the Obama some Catholic political cover in the face of such attacks.

Catholic voters represent one of the largest swing voting blocs in the nation, voting with the winning presidential candidate in every election since the 1970s.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Catholic Church • Health care • Politics

soundoff (1,412 Responses)
  1. Shaun

    If we allow an employer to impose their religious views on their employee, we will be heading down a very slipper slope. These catholics need to think about that because they may not always be working for a christian!!!

    June 18, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  2. larry5

    The Catholics were out bid by the gay, lesbian, transgender and Twinkie groups. Obama's campaign is nothing short of an auction and the Catholics did not step up to the plate. Complaining about Obama overstepping the office of President and creating laws without authority will do nothing if not backed by money and influence. The Catholics need to step it up and really get into this fight.

    June 18, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • bias bias everywhere and not a truth to speak

      we're in the fight. come the fall we expect a lot of the pro-isreal groups to join us. time to bring down this wolf in sheeps clothing

      June 18, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • 4sanity

      Obama hasn't created any laws unilaterally. What he has done is ensure the DHSS starts to enforce rules and regulations enacted by ACA legislation. Stop complaining. The Catholic church's views and arguments were duly noted and found wanting. Nobody lives in a (15th Century) vacuum. Teaching hospitals and universities employ thousands of people. As an employer they have to abide by Federal employer rules/regulations. If they want to preach otherwise, they are free to do so in their houses of worship.

      What we need from the Caltholic Church isn't power and money. We need a little bit more Christianity.

      June 18, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • trashcup

      First the Catholics have to clean up their own house, then they can go out in public and tell everyone. When you have large numbers of your congregation using birth control without the blessing of the church, it's time to fix it before you go fight the fight with someone else. Typical hypocrisy of the Catholic Church. The big guys are telling you what to do, but no one is following privately otherwise there would be lots of Catholic famlies with 12 kids and they are not around.

      June 18, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  3. David

    Obummer cant do anyrthing right, but the people realize we are a free country and shun his socialist desires.

    June 18, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • B IS FOR BONG

      Obummer.....

      You make that up all by your widdle self David ?

      June 18, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      How the hell do you expect your president to do anything right when at every turn the republitards are shooting him down? He's not perfect and he's not expected to be. You dolts tend to forget what Bush did to you.

      June 18, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • JohnnyZ

      Most of Obama's failures were about his failure to overcome the steadfast Republican voice in Congress. The Republicans have done all they could to stop Obama initiatives and have done a great job at such. They also succeeded in stopping progress that would have helped the American people. Serving the American people is their primary function and if you want to use the word failure, this is where it sickeningly but truly applies.

      June 18, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • FLIndependent

      And people like you have swallowed all the nonsense that the Repubs have been spewing for 3 1/2 years. I'm truly frightened for our country in that we are quickly becoming a "Corporate Theocracy". Go ahead and vote against your best interests again with Romney...WWIII here we come!!! It amazes me that we would reward the disgusting behavior we have seen perpetrated by the Repub/Tea Partier obstructionists – that will be the last nail in this country's coffin, wait and see. The Catholic Church needs to come into the 21st Century as does our country and I'm afraid Obama was are only hope to make that happen.

      June 18, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  4. JohnnyZ

    Christ died for all of our sins. He then rose from the dead, walked across a couple of large bodies of water separating Him from Vatican City, arrive at the Pope's Condo and said "Unto thee I command, shut your hole already and take off that stupid hat. Who do you think you are, my dad?"

    My time line may be off, but He makes a point.

    Catholics...creepy people.

    June 18, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • bias bias everywhere and not a truth to speak

      bigot... excuse me, creepy bigot.

      June 18, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  5. mcskadittle

    It is well past time for churches to start paying taxes

    June 18, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • bias bias everywhere and not a truth to speak

      churches are nonprofits. you can yell and scream about their wealth and why they shouldn't be... blah blah blah. they are 501(c)(3)'s in the tax code... just like the united way, goodwill, etc. do you have any idea how much charity is accomplished in this country through churches and especially the catholic charities. the government could never pick up the slack.

      June 18, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • FLIndependent

      Just think what a huge dent that would make in our deficit if all churches paid taxes!

      June 18, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  6. abcdxyz

    Sounds like the bishops told the Catholic Health Association to get in line.

    June 18, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • bias bias everywhere and not a truth to speak

      good! that's how hierarchy works

      June 18, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • trashcup

      Yea, just like they told all those priests to lay off the little boys, like that worked out well. Instead they moved them around from parish to parish protecting them from prosecution. Ditto for birth control for the congregation – "contraception is against the Catholic Church" while 90% of the parishioners are using it. SO much for that plan too.

      June 18, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  7. escher7

    The travesty here is not the Catholic Organization's stance, it's the abuse of their voting block to blackmail Obama into agreeing with them on the eve of an election. And not on the overall plan, but on one narrow little interpretation of a narrow little provision. They did, after all, say they had reached a compromise with the White House.

    June 18, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Dennis

      Since when is it a travesty to vote in the interests of yourself or your group. That's why we vote.

      June 18, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  8. Dee

    And this would be a surprise to who?

    June 18, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  9. effelbee

    Astonishing interference in politics by a major religion. Clearly grounds for it to lose its tax-exempt status. Section 501 of the Code prohibits political activity by a qualified organization.

    June 18, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • escher7

      Good Point!

      June 18, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • JohnnyZ

      Excellent point!!

      June 18, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  10. DarthWoo

    The day will eventually come when groups such as these are no more than fringe groups whose support is neither necessary nor desired. That will be a wonderful day.

    June 18, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Dennis

      Seems like it is happening now. Look what happened to the government employees union in Wisconsin.

      June 18, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  11. dieselbug

    The President is countering religious persecution brought on by the Catholic Church. They are persecuting their employees based on their religious practices by refusing to cover medications and procedures that they consider to be in contradiction of the Catholic "faith".
    The President is not forcing people to have abortions, or use contraceptives. He is exercising his power to ensure that ALL Americans have the freedom to choose the health coverage they wish, regardless of the religious views of their employers.

    June 18, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  12. michael

    Typical two-faced catholic move. Support the religious views that serve your agenda and forget the rest. They don't support contraception because the pope says it's playing god? Every time we go see a doctor we're playing God to try and find a remedy for something that is natural – even if it kills us. Getting a transplant, taking an aspirin, using a condom – it's all playing god. Either be religious or don't be at all.

    June 18, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • escher7

      That is why certain extreme groups would rather let their children die than go to a doctor – although this is slowly changing.

      June 18, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • B IS FOR BONG

      The pope thinks he is god.

      June 18, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • JohnnyZ

      Blasphemy!! B Is For Bong did not capitalize the "P" in Pope.

      June 18, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  13. QuestionEverything

    If the Catholic church wants to play politics so much it should give up its tax exempt status now.

    June 18, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Thank You

      Thank you QuestionEverything. If they really are so against contraception they should simply refuse Federal Aid. That you make be believe they don't have an anterior motive. Just looking the gift horse in the mouth proves they want their money and they want control how they spend other people's money. They accept Federal Aid and they accept their Tax Exempt status but they are telling everybody to keep sending the cash but don't tell me I have to abide by the law on how to use it.

      June 18, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  14. DIaneRPCFL

    If Catholic Health Services, as an employer to both Catholics and non-Catholics, uses their religious organization status to deny all of the benefits provided in the Health Care Reform Act to their employees, they should immediately and fully exercise their "separation of church and state" status to discontinue receiving any form of government funding, including Medicare and Medicaid dollars. Catholic Health Services doesn't want to comply, fine – but give up your place at the big government teat.

    June 18, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • blackhawkmom

      EXACTLY.

      June 18, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • dieselbug

      +1

      June 18, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Laface

      I'm Catholic and agree!

      June 18, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • B IS FOR BONG

      Like !

      June 18, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Dennis

      I think it would make more sense for them to hope the Supreme Court strikes it down or vote for the other guy.

      June 18, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      They aren't denying all benefits, just the contraceptive and abortion services the HHS Mandate requires which are contrary to the Catholic Faith which is protected by the First Amendment. If a non-Catholic works for a Catholic Organization they are free to work elsewhere if they don't like the policies of their employer. Based on Obama's published opinions any Catholic that votes for him commits a mortal sin. That may not matter to the voter, but it certainly matters to God.

      June 18, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      It's only protected if they receive 0 funds from the government. Government money does not discriminate nor is it protected under the first amendment. If the church affiliated businesses gave up all government money, then they could ignore the mandate and not provide the coverage.

      June 18, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @SouthernCelt –

      So, would you have all labor laws repealed? After all, if the employee doesn't like molten slag burning his flesh, he can leave and work somewhere else; if the employee doesn't like inhaling aerosolized asbestos or silica, he can leave and work somewhere else. I admit this is somewhat hyperbolic, but it is demonstrative. Denial of coverage often means no access to needed medical care – especially for the economically disadvantaged. I fully support the right to free speech, but all decisions regarding one's healthcare should involve only a patient and their physician – that means government, employers, payers, etc., and religious insti'tutions, need to stay the hell away!

      June 18, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  15. vp123

    "deeply concerned", meaning the GOP just gave us more $$, so we will switch to their view.

    June 18, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • FLIndependent

      You're probably right since the compromise has been in effect for a few months now – why the sudden change?

      June 18, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  16. crabby appleton

    why should i pay for other's birth control? you want to be on it, use it whatever...you pay for it.

    June 18, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • blackhawkmom

      Why pay for any "preventative" care then?

      June 18, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • effelbee

      Selfishness is hardly a Christian trait, now is it?

      June 18, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      But you don't have to pay for it. The insurance companies do.

      June 18, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • justsayno02

      Funny how no one will/can answer your question – and it's a good one, why should the American people pay for it? This should be asked of many government hand out programs.

      June 18, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      But justsayno, the insurance companies pay for it, not the government.

      June 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Bill

      I would much rather pay for someone elses birth control than pay for their welfare when the parents are taking care of kids they didn't plan and can't afford.

      June 18, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • See Forever Eye

      Men – free viagra (good)
      Woman – free birth control (bad)

      I pray God is a woman.

      June 18, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • JohnnyZ

      Who asked you to pay for others' BC? This has nothing to do with welfare or Medicaid.

      June 18, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  17. atroy

    It is important for me to know which candidates the Catholic Church supports so that I can make sure to NOT vote for them.

    June 18, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      and you are just as bad, if not worse than christians voting someone because they are christian.

      June 18, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Dennis

      They supported Obama in 2008

      June 18, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  18. blackhawkmom

    Why would any woman would want to be Catholic, or republican for that matter?

    June 18, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • justsayno02

      Maybe for the same reason woman want, and deserve equal rights?

      June 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  19. afmcalax

    Contraceptives are medicines. No religion should be able to ban medicines. What the Catholic hierarchy should do, but don't have the backbone to do it, is enforce their own rules within their congregation. Excommunicate all women that use birth control. Excommunicate all women that have had abortions, Excommunicate all Gays. It is not up to society to enforce their biased and archaic religious rules. If the Catholics would enforce their rules and excommunicate every man and woman that broke their rules; there would be only a couple churches left. That is the real problem. So they are hypocritical and instead of enforcing their own rules; they use economic sanctions to try to get their way.

    June 18, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Janine from TX

      How about men who have had vasectomies? How is that any different?

      June 18, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • FLIndependent

      Don't forget those that are divorced also – I dare say if they excommunicated all these people there would be very few left. Hypocrisy at it's finest...BTW I'm a lapsed Cathoic for these reasons.

      June 18, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      Contraceptives kill the baby just after it starts life. Things that kill are not medicine. The Catholic Church does not excommunicate people. People excommunicate themselves through their actions. Everyone sins, no exceptions. That is why the Sacrament of Reconciliation (a.k.a. Confession) exists. Atheists are the real problem. They try to push secular humanism on people as "science" when they know nothing about it. Lapsed-Catholics never understood what they were supposed to learn in CCD. Turning your back on the Real Presence is not wise. Oh, I forgot, you don't believe in it so you walked away from Paradise. Bad move.

      June 18, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Wrong, it is not a person until born.

      June 18, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • FLIndependent

      @Southern – Just because one has left the Catholic Church doesn't make him an Atheist. That's the problem with some of you die-hards, you think that if you don't believe in what the Church teaches then you are doomed. I believe in following the 10 Commandments and practicing the Golden Rule and if God is a just God that should certainly count for something. Get over yourself!

      June 19, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  20. Ambiguity

    Obama will no doubt lose some Catholic support, but I believe he'll still retain a majority of it. I could be wrong, however.

    June 18, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • blackhawkmom

      He may even gain support elsewhere.

      June 18, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Dennis

      I think he will retain some Catholic support. Social justice has been a Catholic cause since before Obama. However, I do not believe he will retain a majority of the Catholic vote this election.

      June 18, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
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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.