Bloomberg News

Obama Said to Make Religious Accommodation on Contraceptives

February 13, 2012

(Updates with objections beginning in fifth paragraph.)

Feb. 10 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama today will announce a plan to address concerns of religious institutions about providing insurance coverage for contraceptives, while making sure all women have such services, administration officials said.

The administration will allow institutions to forego contraceptive coverage while requiring insurers to offer it to employees of religious and charitable organizations without extra charge, the officials said in a briefing for reporters.

Obama remains committed to ensuring that all women have access to contraceptive coverage even if they work for a religious institution, the officials said. The rule is intended to respect the objections from religious institutions by not forcing them to provide the coverage, the officials said.

Obama is set to speak at 12:15 p.m. Washington time.

The controversy was touched off after the administration said it will enforce a provision of the 2010 health-care overhaul requiring that contraceptives be provided by employers who offer health insurance. Church leaders and nonprofit religious groups that primarily employ and serve people of the same faith would be exempt, while church-affiliated hospitals and universities would not.

The decision created an election-year split among Senate Democrats, with some Catholics in the party joining Republicans in calls to modify or scrap it.

Finding a Solution

In the face of opposition from religious leaders, Vice President Joe Biden yesterday hinted at the possibility of a compromise before the mandate takes effect next year. In an interview with a Cincinnati radio station, he said a “significant attempt” was being made to find a solution.

Some Catholic Democrats in the Senate, such as John Kerry of Massachusetts and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, pressed the administration to make changes.

The intra-party rift is providing an election-year gift to Republicans. They are seeking to demonstrate unity against aspects of the health-care law unpopular with their party’s base and to highlight differences that might gain support from Catholics and social conservatives.

Catholic voters are a critical bloc in such swing states as Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania that have competitive Senate races and are battlegrounds in the presidential election.

--With assistance from Mike Dorning, Kathleen Hunter, Michelle Jamrisko, Derek Wallbank and Roger Runningen in Washington. Editors: Joe Sobczyk, Steven Komarow

To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Talev in Washington at mtalev@bloomberg.net; Laura Litvan in Washington at llitvan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net


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