"Accommodation" Reached on Contraceptive Services


Senior White House officials spoke in advance of an announcement from President Obama, expected later today, highlighting a “common sense accommodation” seeking to end a public dispute with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops over new requirements for contraception services in health care plans. Under revised guidelines offered today, a religious exemption from those new requirements for services will still apply to church entities such as parishes and dioceses, but non-profit religious employers will no longer be required to offer contraception, pay for it via insurance premiums or refer employees to contraception benefits outside their plans. A senior White House official said the administration believes the changes reflect "a health care policy that accommodates religious liberty while protecting women."


Instead, senior White House officials said insurance providers will directly reach out to employees of Catholic not-for-profits who may be seeking contraception and provide the services free of charge. Contraception would be available then to any employee of religous not-for-profits who desire it, but the employer will not be involved in providing the service. The White House argues that contraception services are cost-neutral, in fact save insurers money, so no additional premium is required to pay for them. That aspect of the plan may still raise eyebrows at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops worried over comingling of funding. A source there said, “They’ve framed this as a fight over religious liberty; they can’t pivot over to contraception … There could be some who still want to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.

“Let’s not do that,” he said, calling the weeks of sometimes acrimonious public dispute over HHS guidelines a “painful but important” discussion about religion and society. “This is a significant moment in the life of the nation, that we have had this discussion and raised public consciousness about the role of religion in society.”

That source reported that President Obama personally called U.S.C.C.B. President N.Y. Archbishop Timothy Dolan in Rome this morning to report the White House decision. The Obama administration is trying to tamp down a controversy that was promising to cost them moderate and liberal Catholic votes in November, while still placating their Democratic base.

The White House quickly circulated a news release from Sister Carol Keehan, the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, supporting the new position, which also drew support from Planned Parenthood officials. “The Catholic Health Association is very pleased with the White House announcement that a resolution has been reached that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions,” said Sister Keehan. “The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed. We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished. The unity of Catholic organizations in addressing this concern was a sign of its importance. This difference has at times been uncomfortable but it has helped our country sort through an issue that has been important throughout the history of our great democracy.”

The new exemption language was praised by John Gehring, the Catholic outreach coordinator for Faith in Public Life. "This decision," Gehring said, "shows the White House respects the Catholic community and concerns of diverse religious leaders. It's clear that the president worked very hard to protect both religious liberty and women's health. Those two values should not be in conflict. Republicans leaders and others who have unfairly bashed this administration for being hostile to religion should stop perpetuating that absurd narrative."



Senior administration officials announce "accommodation" on contraception requirements and religious liberty. Religious employers will not have to offer nor pay for contraception services; women will have access to preventive services including contraception through outreach from health insurers.



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Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 1 month ago
Wonder if the Bishops will be as gracious in backing away from their aggressively planned and executed attack as the Obama administration has been open in listening to and accomodating their concerns?

I couldn't tell, from the article, who said the following (a White House administrator?)

“This is a significant moment in the life of the nation, that we have had this discussion and raised public consciousness about the role of religion in society.”

But I think that it captures what I like about Obama.  He's not afraid of controversy, and is not a black and white thinker.  He is able to hold a lot of differing perspectives and allow this sometimes difficult environment, itself, to bring more light to a problem, oftentimes opening a new way other than either-or, "this" or "that" solutions.

The Bishops could learn from his style.

Marie Rehbein
7 years 1 month ago
The bishops couldn't ask for anything more other than to make this democracy into a theocracy that they control.  Let's hope they don't claim a right for religiously affiliated institutions to micromanage the private lives of their employees.
Vince Killoran
7 years 1 month ago
They won't be gracious or nuanced or appreciative of the difficult balancing necessary.  I just read where they now want ALL Catholic employers to be exempt (the USCCB spokesman argued, for example, that a Taco Bell owner should also be exempted). The goal post keep changing.

This debacle is yet more proof that we need a single-payer health care system now! 
ed gleason
7 years 1 month ago
The bishops won't except an Obama truce.. The only energy they can muster is to cry 'Religious war'.. Watch on CBS, Cardinal Wuerhl on Morning Joe , there plugging his book, when the accommodation story breaks. The anchors turned to him and asked what he thought. he rejects the accommodation with a quibbling story about no federal funds go to his Archdiocese entity. Of course not because his diocese is EXEMPT even before the accommodation.  He rejects the Hawaii plan because "letting employees know where to get BC is the same as telling kids where to get porno"
Their 'foot in mouth' make Romney look eloquent. Then watch Card. Dolan with Charlie Rose. 'reject compromise'  just like any other Tea party leader.  
Gabriel Marcella
7 years 1 month ago
This episode provides lessons:

1. Though not as dramatic as Frederick I doing penance at Canossa, this is a rich teachable moment about the role of religion in the public square. Freedom of conscience is the bedrock of our democracy. Catholics and non-Catholics need to defend it.

2. We cannot presume that government leaders are capable of moral reasoning. Political expediency is a powerful force. The faulty logic and moral relativism coming from proponents of the HHS mandate require us to be more effective in  defending Catholic principles. Are parents and schools (grade, high, university) educating students in how to reason morally in defense of Catholic principles? Shouldn't we expect more of ourselves in that great public square?

3. The HHS mandate was an insult to Catholic identity in our pluralistsic society. Those of us brought up in the bosom of Catholic schools, universities, and service agencies took our identity for granted. We now face a growing secularism that challenges that identity. Moreover, most Americans (and even Catholics) probably had no idea of the enormous generosity and outreach to society and the world. Yet, note the anti-Catholic vitriol in the media.

4. The bishops have been criticized by some Catholics for speaking out so forcefully and, yes, effectively, as if they created the problem with the HHS mandate. The laity has a responsibility to speak in defense of Catholic values. We are, after all, one Church and one body.
7 years 1 month ago
Well said, Mr. Marcella.  One can't help but notice the anti-Catholic vitriol and bishop-bashing <i>here,</i> and elsewhere by Obama/Sibelius loving, self-loathing Catholics who wouldn't cut a bishop a break even if he walked on water.
Vince Killoran
7 years 1 month ago
If your criticize the USCCB you must be "anti-Catholic" and a "self-loathing Catholic," right Paul?

I have never known church officials to move with such force and put so many resources into an issue-certainly not the death penalty, environment, work place justice, or providing justice for victims of sexual abuse.
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 1 month ago
I absolutely love my bishop (Gerald Barbarito, Bishop of Palm Beach), and often tell him that he needs a more balanced group of peers :-).  I honestly think that in the right circumstances, Barbarito could be another Romero.


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