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Prescription contraceptives for women sit on the counter of a drug store on August 1, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Under new standards issued by the Obama administration, health insurers are required to cover all government-approved contraceptives for women, without co-payments or other charges.
President Obama’s Catholic contraception controversy – spurred by his Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate late last month requiring Catholic institutions to offer free access to FDA-approved contraceptives through health insurance plans by August 1 – isn’t going away.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, and others have been calling on President Obama to reverse his stance, and his senior staff seems to be signaling a possible compromise. Under the current policy, churches would be exempt from offering health coverage for contraceptives, but conservative pro-life groups want this extended to other Catholic institutions like hospitals and universities. The controversy revolves not around whether Catholic institutions should be required to provide contraceptives to employees, but whether the institutions’ health care policies must cover the contraceptives.
Depending on who’s talking, it’s being framed as a freedom-of-religion issue, an employees’’ rights issue and a constitutional issue—could it move all the way to the Supreme Court? And from a political standpoint, does the President have anything to gain by compromising on his latest position?
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles); ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Larry Morris, general counsel for The Catholic University of America
Susan Wood, professor of health policy, George Washington University; former director of the women’s health office at the FDA