On a hastily arranged conference call with press this morning, the Obama administration announced that President Obama will reveal changes to the administration’s contraceptive/abortifacient mandate. That mandate, part of the still unpopular ObamaCare legislation, forced religious hospitals and charities to purchase insurance that includes provisions that are at odds with core church teachings. It has created a firestorm for the administration over the past week. Catholic bishops in a majority of the nation’s parishes had spoken out against the mandate from their pulpits, rejecting it for forcing religious hospitals to purchase insurance that includes contraceptive, sterilization and abortifacient services that are contrary to the church’s core teachings. Over the ensuing days, a broad coalition of Catholic and Protestant leaders, current and former officials in both parties and even liberal members of the press spoke out strongly against the mandate.
The White House conference call was several minutes late getting started. Senior administration officials “on background,” but who have publicly supported the mandate as it has been rolled out, briefed reporters on the new policy. The White House offered no one on the call who opposed the mandate. The administration officials admitted that the White House did not speak with church leaders to determine whether the policy change would be acceptable to them. The senior official instead cited the praise of Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards, who has been a driving force behind the mandate all along and would be expected to back the administration. The administration official refused to discuss in detail the role played by Vice President Joe Biden, who opposed the mandate behind the scenes and has publicly called for a compromise.
It was clear from the tone of the conference call that the administration has placed its “core principle” of providing “free” contraceptive coverage above the core American principle of religious freedom. The officials cited that principle repeatedly. The officials insisted that insurance companies will not be allowed to charge any additional premiums to cover the costs of the contraceptive mandate, but only vaguely answered a question regarding whether the administration has discussed the policy with insurance companies. How will insurance companies pay for the “free” contraception and abortifacient coverage? The Obama White House officials said that the costs of the “free” coverage will be offset by reductions in unwanted pregnancies, a dubious and speculative answer. The officials restated “We think this is the way forward” to achieve its “core principle” several times over the course of the call.
President Barack Obama will officially announce the policy changes later today.
Update: Predictable — Planned Parenthood supports the policy change.
Update: LifeNews reports:
The revised Obama mandate will make religious groups contract with insurers to offer birth control and the potentially abortion-causing drugs to women at no cost. The revised mandate will have religious employers refer women to their insurance company for coverage that still violates their moral and religious beliefs. Under this plan, every insurance company will be obligated to provide coverage at no cost.
Essentially, religious groups will still be mandated to offer plans that cover both birth control and the ella abortion drug
According to Obama administration officials on a conference call this morning, a woman’s insurance company “will be required to reach out directly and offer her contraceptive care free of charge. The religious institutions will not have to pay for it.”
The birth control and abortion-causing drugs will simply be “part of the bundle of services that all insurance companies are required to offer,” White House officials said.
Update: The president just announced the policy. The “compromise” he described is phony. The administration negotiated with itself and its Planned Parenthood allies to come up with a way to window dress what is the same policy that created the controversy in the first place. Religious employers will still be paying for the insurance coverage, which will now include the controversial services. The only change is that the administration says it is now forcing the insurance companies, rather than the institutions, to pick up the cost. Only in a fantasy world would anyone expect that insurance premiums will not rise as a direct result of this mandate. The fact that the White House tipped Planned Parenthood ahead of the policy announcement, but did not even discuss it with church leaders, gives the game away: The administration is dead set on pursuing its “core principle” no matter the objections or constitutional problems raised.