White House Shifts on Birth Control Mandate
President Barack Obama made efforts to calm a firestorm over his new birth control coverage mandate, announcing Friday that his administration will reverse the requirement for religious employers.
The law would have forced religious employers to cover birth control and emergency contraception like Plan B, causing an uproar with several Catholic groups and other religious organizations.
The revamped policy will instead demand that insurance companies be directly responsible for providing free contraception -- a change that only shifts financial responsibility.
Women will still have access to birth control without co-pays or premiums regardless of where they work. The policy shift still has opponents concerned.
"Religious liberty will be protected and a law that requires free preventative care will not discriminate against women," Obama said in a brief statement Friday.
"I understand some folks in Washington want to treat this as another political wedge issue. But it shouldn't be. I certainly never saw it that way," Obama added.
"This is an issue where people of goodwill on both sides of the debate have been sorting through some very complicated questions," he said.
Many saw the announcement as a political move, rather than a good faith attempt to protect religious rights. Several Republican lawmakers had recently joined the fight to end the mandate.
"The so-called new policy is the discredited old policy, dressed up to look like something else," Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said in a statement after Obama's comments.
The reversal comes amidst a firestorm of protests from a host of religious leaders and organizations over the new rule.
Eternal World Television Network recently added its voice to chorus of critics, filing a lawsuit against the government over the controversial mandate.
EWTN CEO Michael Warsaw said the network's suit is not about compromising women's health care but standing up for freedom of religion and speech.
Warsaw explained that the mandate would use donor money to pay for morally objectionable health services like birth control, the morning after pill, and sterilization.
"Under the HHS mandate, EWTN is being forced by the government to make a choice: Either we provide employees coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs and violate our conscience, or offer our employees and their families no health insurance coverage at all," he said.
"Neither of those choices is acceptable," he said.
EWTN is a Alabama-based religious broadcaster that provides Catholic programming and a news coverage from around the world.