Catholic leaders are fighting against a new Obamacare policy requiring insurers and businesses to offer contraception coverage to women, even after the White House announced a compromise to protect religious institutions. Under the measure, a religiously affiliated organization like a Catholic college or hospital does not have to pay for contraception coverage if it objects to offering birth control, but its employees will still have access to birth control.
As President Obama put it during an an interview with a New Orleans TV reporter on Monday, while religious liberty is “critical,” it’s “not fair” for these institutions to deny coverage to non-Catholic employees:
REPORTER: He describes himself as a Catholic voter and wrote ‘What can you say about a healthcare bill that’ll mandate insurance companies to provide birth control, sterilization, etc. to employees of Catholic universities, hospitals and churches since this goes against the Catholic religion?’ We know there is compromising language in place. Some say it doesn’t go far enough and that the real, the much bigger issue is religious liberty, not contraception.
OBAMA: Yeah. Well it’s absolutely true that religious liberty is critical. I mean that’s what our country was founded on. That’s the reason why we exempted churches, we exempted religious institutions, but we did say that big Catholic hospitals or universities who employ a lot of non-Catholics and who receive a lot of federal money, that for them to be in a position to say to a woman who works there you can’t get that from your insurance company even though the institution isn’t paying for it, that that crosses the line where that woman, she suddenly is gonna have to bear the burden and the cost of that. And that’s not fair.
Despite claims that the contraception policy tramples religious liberty and is an “unprecedented attack,” many large Catholic institutions provided contraception coverage even before they were required to do so. For example, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and DePaul University in Illinois offer employees the option of receiving contraception, joining other Catholic organizations across the country.
Many religious organizations even agree with Obama’s reasoning. After Wisconsin implemented a contraception equity clause in 2010, the Diocese of Madison indicated that it would comply with the state law, noting that while employees would be given “strong pastoral recommendations against” using the contraception benefit, employees should “use their conscience and do the right thing.”