Tuesday, February 28, 2012

News Brief: Rule Shift on Birth Control Is Concession to Obama Allies

Kristiina Yang
On Friday, February 10, 2012, President Obama announced a policy shift over contraception coverage that only exacerbated the uproar over this already highly contested issue. About three weeks prior, the President presented a policy that would require all religiously affiliated universities and charitable organizations to cover the expenses of birth control for their employees. Instantly portrayed as an attack on religious freedom, particularly by Conservatives and Catholic leaders, Obama prompted his administration to reevaluate the ruling. In particular, the President sought to appease its left wing, Catholic Democrat allies, who had begun to turn against his administration over this issue.
The president called upon his administration to adjust the policy in a way that would diminish the furor, directing the task particularly to Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of human health and services. While the task force had initially requested one year to work out a compromise, they were forced to concede and agree on a rushed ruling that shifted the cost of birth control from the universities and organizations to health insurance companies who would offer a side benefit to cover it. The original intention was to model the state of Hawaii’s system for covering contraceptives, yet it would require months to determine whether this model could be emulated to the entire nation. The remodeled mandate was still met with great disenchantment, although Obama reportedly gained approval from several significant Catholic leaders whom he was trying to appease, such as Sister Carol Keehan, the head of an influential Catholic hospital group.
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