In a recent article from USA Today’s the Oval community, Richard Wolf details the status of a new Obama administration mandate that would require employers to cover women’s birth control costs as part of their insurance policy, under the category of preventative care.
The provision, first suggested last month, has caused quite a controversy among the religious right. And since, Republicans and church officials have been rallying for a change to the legislation.
To be fair, the mandate exempts churches and houses of worship from covering birth control, but other “religiously-affiliated” groups would still be required to provide the coverage.
In response, as the Oval report continues, “President Obama will announce a plan today that attempts to accommodate religious employers opposed to a rule that would require them to provide access to birth control for women free of charge.”
The Obama administration plans to remove the mandate from the employer and instead move it to the insurance companies. That way, even if the employee works for a religious institution exempt from the policy, it would be up to the insurance company to provide birth control free of charge. The requirement would rest with the insurers.
The White House has unsurprisingly received harsh responses from Catholic and other Christian-based organizations. They argue that this change in legislation is a token, at best. The implication of the legislation pragmatically serves the same purpose. It is merely in the wording that the institution itself would not be required to provide the coverage.
Opponents at the RNC argue: “It’s a dangerous game when dealing with a fundamental American right protected by the Constitution such as religious freedom.”
House Speaker Boehner adds that the mandate is “an unambiguous attack on religious freedom.” If passed, Boehner vows to pass legislation to reverse it. Several Democrats have joined the Republicans to reverse the measure, such as Sen. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Wolf reports that in defense of the mandate, “The White House has pointed to 28 states with similar laws, including eight without the religious exemption contained in the federal rule, as proof that requiring free access to contraceptives is workable.”
Catholic leaders condemn the president’s words as “all talk, no action”, arguing that the White House has not taken any steps to find middle ground with religious groups. But there is no real middle ground, as religious groups refuse to comply with anything short of removing the provision altogether, claiming: “good Catholic business people can’t in good conscience cooperate with this.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer of California vows her support to the birth control mandate: “We support the right of women in this country to have access to birth control through their insurance policies, and anybody who stands in the way is going to have to deal with us and our friends,” Boxer said she had spoken to Obama adviser David Axelrod, who assured her that the administration would not weaken its position.