Contraception Controversy


BOB ABERNETHY, host: Familiar social issues led the religion news this week. In Washington, the Obama administration made a significant change in its policy on insurance coverage of contraception by religiously affiliated organizations. Any employer with a religious objection will not be required to offer or pay for contraceptive services but insurance companies would have to offer those services to women free of charge. This change follows a huge controversy over the administrations original plan which US Catholic bishops and several other religious groups said would have violated their constitutionally-guaranteed religious freedom. Republican candidates for president also weighed in on the controversy. Mitt Romney became the latest GOP candidate to accuse the president of waging “an assault on religion”. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have launched similar attacks. On Tuesday, support from religious and social conservatives helped Santorum win the Missouri primary and caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado. Following those victories, Santorum traveled to Texas where he spoke to more than 100 Christian ministers about his Catholic faith.

We want to explore the contraception debate further. Kim Lawton our managing editor has been following the issue which produced for many people Kim, as you know, this terrible bind between having to obey the law on the one hand or follow their churches’ teachings and their own consciences on the other.

KIM LAWTON (Managing Editor): Well, that’s what the big debate was. The original policy allowed exemptions for most churches, but for these religiously affiliated institutions like hospitals or Catholic universities or charitable organizations—they felt like they were being forced to pay for something that their church says is wrong, and so they did feel that there was this bind, which is why there was this outcry.

ABERNETHY: And so what does the compromise say?

LAWTON: And with this solution, as the Obama administration calls it, they say they’re accommodating two core principles, the core principle of giving women access to affordable preventative health care, which they say includes contraceptive services. That was a core principle for the administration. But it also, they say, now accommodates religious liberty concerns so…

ABERNETHY: They also called it a public health issue.

LAWTON: Yes, and they say that, you know, they want women to have access to these contraceptive services as a matter of public health, so now the insurance companies will directly offer those to the employees, and the religiously affiliated institutions won’t have to provide those or pay for it.

ABERNETHY: Or refer?

LAWTON: Or refer people to it. It would be the responsibility of the insurance company, and so, you know, this is their way of getting around it. There were a lot of people in the religious community, especially in the mainline Protestant community that said they supported the original mandate, but for, you know, some people, including moderate to liberal Catholics, they had a problem with it.

ABERNETHY: And so is it all solved now? Is everybody happy?

LAWTON: Well, there were a lot of hard feelings that were generated in all of this—and again this notion that the Obama administration is in some way at war with religion or at war with the Catholic Church. That was the slogan that was out there. As we’ve reported, a lot of the Republican candidates certainly jumped on that some might say, the president says, you know, cynically for political gain. That issue’s still out there. Is there some sort of, you know, growing secularism or attack on religious exercise in this country? And so I think the administration does have, you know, some repairing to do. A lot of moderate and liberal Catholics who supported this president, who supported the health care bill when it was going through Congress, they felt a little betrayed. I’m hearing from people who say, you know, yeah, the majority of Catholic women may use birth control, and yeah, a lot of people disagree maybe with the church’s policy, but this issue is bigger than that in their view. And so, you know, for them they were pleased that the administration made this compromise, but there was some damage that was done.

ABERNETHY: And we will be hearing more about this as the campaign goes on.

LAWTON: Well. certainly I think a lot of the Republicans aren’t going to let this go. They are going to keep at it. They see it as a good issue, a good issue to battle the president with.

ABERNETHY: Kim Lawton, many thanks.

  • Rev. Dn. Sergius Miller

    If you take Caesar’s money, you play Caesar’s game.

  • Patricia Sandall

    Roman Catholic Womenpriests applaud the Obama Administration for upholding the rights of women concerning coverage for contraceptive services under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

    In an exquisitely crafted compromise to allay the concerns of some Christian leaders, President Obama announced that women will be guaranteed coverage for contraceptive services directly from their insurance company rather than through religiously affiliated employers.

    Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWP) disagrees with the US Bishops stance against women’s right to full health coverage, against a woman’s right to self-determination and against a woman’s right to privacy.

    We believe in the God-given gift of free will and the primacy of one’s own conscience. We believe that women are quite capable of making their own decisions.

    Roman Catholic Womenpriests-USA, Inc. (RCWP-USA) is a prophetic organization within an international progressive movement in the Roman Catholic Church. Its mission is primarily to prepare, ordain in apostolic succession, and support women who are called by the Holy Spirit and their communities to a renewed priestly ministry rooted in justice and faithfulness to the Gospel. Visit Contact: Suzanne Thiel,       503.784.3330

  • E.Patrick Mosman

    Corrected comment

    The President of the USA has just ordered major US companies to provide services free of charge so is there any limit on what he could order ? Could he order all hotels or even home owners to provide rooms to the homeless free, all supermarkets and family owned food stores to provide food to the hungry free, automobile companies to provide cars to those who don’t live on a convenient public transportation route free? Is there to be no limit on what the federal government can order people and companies to do for free?
    The initial HHS mandate would, more than likely, have be found unconstitutional so how can a compromise be reached on a mandate that was illegal in the first place. This is typical of a command and control regime, two steps forward, one step back again and again. The Bishops would be fools to agree to this ‘compromise” and follow the old saying “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” This whole charade has nothing to do with condoms or contraceptives, it has everything to do with forcing companies, religious and non-governmental charities to submit to the Federal government rules, regulations and mandates.

  • Leland Johnson

    The article doesn’t even address the fact that it is inherently wrong for the government to force a private insurance company to provide birth control. Is this the most pressing issue in the world of medicine? that women need insurance companies to accomodate their preferred sexual shut off valves? If that’s the case, shouldn’t insurance companies pay for condoms too? How about vasectomies? How about hair transplants? penile implants? breast augumentation? The point is, the gov doesn’t have the right to force a private company into supporting and providing for any of the above scenarios. Pay for your own contraception or keep your pants on and your legs crossed.

  • Roger Wray

    If the insurance companies give into the new gaff by Obama, then how are they going to recoop the billions of dollars they will be spending; from the religious organizations. Nothing is free. Birth control is not a health issue, it is private and is willing inflicted by those involved.

  • Steve

    A compromise? Who will pay for the birth control? Obama says the insurance companies. What, out of their profits? I don’t think so. This so called compromise is a shell game just hiding the cost. The insurance companies won’t show birth control as part of a line item of what the religious organization is paying for, but it will be included in the cost the insurance company charges the religious organization. Obama is taking a big eraser and erasing the text, but everyone is nodding and winking that we all know that the cost will still be carried by the religious organization. And what about the organizations that are self insured. Will Obama come up with another compromise that seems to exempt them, but really doesn’t. The “Obama compromise” is a compromise in word, not fact.

  • Channah

    Now the Catholic church says this insurance plan, outside what they offer their employees, will not do. We have here a bunch of strange old men who have no idea what it is to raise a family and yet, they want to call all the shots. The Catholic church seems so interested in a baby pre-birth, but they want nothing to do with the raising of them—–food, clothing, shelter, and education.

    Thank heavens most Catholics do not adhere to this policy. And, the sooner the churchrealizes this, the better off everyone will be.

  • Dr. Jose D. Rivera Tormos

    I believe the subject of contraception has been utilized to play with american concience on a must profound issue, the right to live. We hace to be nore carefull with measures that are part of an agenda to undermine the church dictrine ib this. No everytrhing that is legal is moral. And I think moraliry is in crsis in America.

  • Barbara former catholic

    In the 50’s & 60’s my family faithfully attended the catholic church, my siblings and I were educated in parochial schools, but not once in 30+ years, did I ever witness any sign of love, compassion or generousity practiced by any member of catholic clergy, charity or organization. In the parish of my youth, there were several poor families who desperately needed help, but only the answer given was to “pray”. The same parish whose monsignor (head priest) listed names of members who had not tithed the week before and then in 1962 died with $100,000 in the bank.
    Who are these so called catholic leaders Pontificating and blowing hot air? Real Catholics practice Jesus’s teachings which state only GOD is the judge.

  • h hury

    problem is mexican baby boom . mexicans wont take pills even if free . they are trying to over populate usa with illegal anchor babys .Most of the change is being driven by a surging Latino population with a much higher birth rate than any other ethnic group. It is further bolstered by legal immigration. Google birth rates of illegal mexican / mexican ,
    facts …

    In fact, according to the Census Bureau, more than half of the growth in the U.S. population between 2000 and 2010 was because of growth in the Hispanic population. Between 2000 and 2010 the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent while the non-Hispanic population grew only 5 percent.

  • Stanley Easton

    It seems to me this is an example of an authoritarian church hierarchy that is not content to accept “no” for an answer from American Catholic faithful, but wishes to press harder to impose its will and doctrine even upon employees who may not be Catholic. The bishops know how to grandstand, seize the political spotlight, and divert attention from more serious public policy issues, such as affordable health care for all or narrowing the economic gap between the one percent and the 99.

  • John Warren Simpson

    This is not an issue of religious freedom.
    Nor is it even an issue about female reproductive rights.
    This is really an issue about insurance.
    With Universal Health Care Coverage, this would not even be an issue.
    It is distressing to hear how inflammatory rhetoric obscures the basic
    issues that affect the well-being of all humanity.
    Most of it revolves around protecting the profits of private corporations,
    not freedom of choice, religious beliefs, or human rights.

  • Bob Brown

    As I noted in my comments on the other news item on this topic, it seemed to me that all the objections, made by people of various religions (and at least one avowed atheist!) were not concerned about the controversial topic of artificial birth control, but the enormously important and basic right to freedom of conscience. Freedom of religion was considered so important by our forefathers because their was so little of it in the nations of Europe. Unfortunately (but apparently deliberately) nearly all the national media ignored this fact. It seems likely that the Administration felt there was little risk in starting with this issue, not realizing that nearly everyone would see the real issue. But with hundreds of policy determkinations left to the independent authority of the Secretary of HHS, what–in addition to Mr. Obama’s special interest of abortion — would be next?

    We need to keep our eyes on the ball — our freedom — instead of confusing the issue.

    Bob Brown

  • ken mcfadden

    I have been looking for a truely ethical solution to these opposing rights and or freedoms and essentially can not find one. On one hand there is a religion which is comitted to upholding a poorly thought out moral position
    (based on ancient scripture which is at best vague and at worst ludicrus an promulgated by groups of celibate old men through the ages) and on the other hand a government which is trying to assert the reproductuve rights of women or couples. ( a worthy effort but one that will never be able to totally divorce itself of all the heavy moral baggage of reproductive choices and what a representative government must do. In the above arguments note its seems ok for a government to tax me to pay for a war machine thats sole purpose is the killing of humane beings despite this violating one of my most basic moral pricipals but not ok for a church group to indirectly have to finance cotraception.) alas it seems to me the presidents compromise is as close as one can get to a solution though many will still cry foul.