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Capitol Roundup: Birth Control Fight Still On [Poll]

While the Connecticut delegation hailed President Barack Obama's compromise on the birth control mandate, Catholic bishops say they still find it objectionable.

On Friday when President Barack Obama announced a compromise had been reached on a controversial policy mandating access to contraceptive services, Connecticut's congressional delegation fired off statements to the news media in support of revisions the administration had made.

"In this politically charged environment, it is heartening to see that we can come together to find a path forward that protects the health needs of women while recognizing the conscience concerns of religious institutions," U.S. Rep. John Larson, a Roman Catholic, said in a statement published by the Hartford Courant.

But soon after the announcement, Catholic bishops across the country renewed their opposition to the policy, including the revisions, and what had been described as a compromise now appears far from settled.

The Catholic bishops said the revisions, which would no longer require employers to pay for such services, did not go far enough in protecting religious liberties because it still would require private health plans to provide women access to birth control even if their employers objected.

"We will therefore continue – with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency – our efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government," the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement posted late Friday to its website. "For example, we renew our call on Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. And we renew our call to the Catholic faithful, and to all our fellow Americans, to join together in this effort to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all."

The White House had proposed that rather than requiring employers to carry contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the requirement would shift to the insurance company, which would be required to offer those services directly to the woman free of charge.

Under that scenario, religious organizations would not have to subsidize the contraception costs and would not have to play any role in the matter, according to the administration. Churches and houses of worship also would be exempt from the requirement to refer or provide coverage for contraception, administration officials said.

Offering contraceptive services, according to the White House, would be considered cost-neutral to the insurance company because it would prevent additional health costs, adding the Federal Employees Health Benefit System saw no increase in premiums when contraception was added and required of non-religious employees in Hawaii.

However, Catholic bishops said the services would still remain a part of the insurance plan, and as a result inherently financed by the employer who objects to the services on moral grounds. The mandate also would appear to apply to self-insurance plans, according to the bishops.

"We note at the outset that the lack of clear protection for key stakeholders — for self-insured religious employers; for religious and secular for-profit employers; for secular non-profit employers; for religious insurers; and for individuals — is unacceptable and must be corrected," according to the group's statement.

Paul Improta March 03, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Funny how Obama is taking credit for taking out Bin Laden in an action completely contrary to Holder's position on the Gitmo prisoners and alien combatants.
Douglas Brennan March 03, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Does the government actually ever provide any service? Perhaps the military hires soldiers and the IRS hires auditors. However the IRS does not create the computer systems, the military does not build the weapons, nor does it grow the food for the troops, nor does it build the ships, etc. For many things that government provides it contracts with private industry to actually provide the "service." Even with Medicare the government does not provide the pills, the doctors or in many cases the hospitals does it? But what we have found is that the government does very little well even in contracting with others for a good or service. It does not create the type of accountability that private industry creates and it does not provide the management of resources in a manner that is as effective as private industry. Since it has long been established that it is both theorectically and actually inefficient the best program for the citizen is to limit its scope and resources. Our nations founders understood this however we are losing our way the more we allocate to the inefficient and ineffective.
--- March 03, 2012 at 11:39 PM
"Yes, Americans are free to practice the faith of their choice." Indeed. And to have a religion of choice, we need to be in a Nation that provides us with that freedom, hence, The US Constitution says it will not impede the free exercise thereof. I agree wholeheartedly that the government shall never start a "National Religion", as it would violate the Constitution. But our Constitution expressly gives us the right to Freedom of Religion and the free exercise of said religion. Making it simpler, how can we be given the freedom to exercise our religion if we cannot freely choose our religion in the first place?
Long Time Resident March 04, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Rob, the first ammendment is pretty clear: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." What part of that don't you get? If congress can't make a law prohibiting the free exercise of religion, then that translates into freedom of religion doesn't it? Anyone who knows constitutional law also knows the so called separation of church and state came from a decades old Supreme Court Decision, not from the actual language in the constitution and has been interpreted and misinterpreted for years. I find it particularly offensive that the Catholic church and its hierarchy ignored, hid and covered up the molestation of thousands of children by priests for decades and continued to allow the offenders to offer absolution and serve communion, while disallowing their members from partaking in sacraments because they violated church rules.
Rob Gianazza March 04, 2012 at 04:14 PM
@Long Time Resident. Congratulations on your ability to cut & paste from my post. I too find it offensive the way the whole child molestation issue was handled, but that has no place in this topic. You choose to use it as an attack on Catholicism. Let's focus on the topic, government mandated insurance benefits. This is a slippery slope, once you permit the government to make one decision for you, they will continue to legislate the rest of your freedoms away. Whether you agree or disagree about contraceptives, the issue is really about how far are we willing to allow the government to control our daily lives?

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