WASHINGTON (AP/CBSDC) — President Obama offered a compromise Friday over his birth control policy for religious institutions after facing backlash from Catholics, Republicans and Democrats.
Under the change, religious employers will not have to cover birth control for their employees. Instead, the government will demand that insurance companies be directly responsible for providing contraception.
The White House was heavily criticized for its original policy stating that church-related employers was to provide contraception coverage for its employees.
The president said during the press conference in the White House Briefing Room that the decision protects religious liberty while ensuring that “women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services no matter where they work.”
Republicans lambasted the administration’s original birth control mandate, saying that it was an “unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country.”
House Speaker John Boehner accused the administration Wednesday of violating First Amendment rights and undermining some of the country’s most vital institutions, such as Catholic charities, schools and hospitals. He demanded that Obama rescind the policy or else Congress will.
“This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country cannot stand, and will not stand,” Boehner, a Catholic and Ohio Republican, said in a floor speech rare for the speaker.
Shortly after Boehner spoke, GOP senators gathered on the other side of the Capitol to hammer the administration and insist that they will push ahead with legislation to undo the requirement.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., called the new rule “an unprecedented affront to religious liberty. This is not a women’s rights issue. This is a religious liberty issue.”
The issue is not contraception, said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., but “whether the government of the United States should have the power to go in and tell a faith-based organization that they have to pay for something that they teach their members shouldn’t be done. It’s that simple. And if the answer is yes, then this government can reach all kinds of other absurd results.”
Several Senate Democrats said they would challenge any effort to reverse the policy.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., pointed out that for about 15 percent of women, birth control pills are used to treat endometriosis and other conditions.
“It’s medicine and women deserve their medicine,” she said.
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