February 7th, 2012
06:53 PM ET
WHITE HOUSE (CNN) – The White House appears to be softening its stance on the controversial rule forcing some religious organizations to provide birth control as part of their health insurance plans.
“The president's interest at a policy level is in making sure that this coverage is extended to all women because it's important,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. “(On) the other side is finding the right balance…concerns about religious beliefs and convictions. So we will, in this transition period …seek to find ways to implement that policy that allay some of those concerns.”
More than two weeks ago, the Department of Health and Human Service issued a mandate instructing all employers that provide health insurance to their employees include the option for paid birth control, the morning after pill and intrauterine devices. The rule, scheduled to go into effect next summer, excluded churches from participation. The mandate did not exclude religiously affiliated employers like universities and hospitals creating a firestorm.
Tuesday’s softened rhetoric makes it appear the administration is willing to work with religious employers on a finding a compromise before the rule goes into effect. But the White House still insists that women employed by these religiously affiliated employers must have access to insurance coverage that pays for contraceptives.
Some leaders in the Catholic Church say that compromise is not enough.
“Implementing the policy as is and allying the concerns are mutually exclusive. If they want to allay concerns they need to change the policy. Nothing less will do,” Anthony Picarello, general counsel of the U.S. Conference of Bishops told CNN.
The talk of compromise also signals the administration’s efforts to reach out and extend an olive branch to many Catholic voters, a crucial voting block for President Obama in 2008.
While the regulations have caused a firestorm of criticism, a new study released by the Public Religion Research Institute shows the majority of Catholics support the administration’s plan. Nearly 6 out of 10 Catholics think employers should be required to provide this kind of insurance coverage. Among Catholic voters, support for the measure is slightly lower at 52%.
Nevertheless the issue has been fodder for Republicans on the presidential campaign trail. Republican hopeful Newt Gingrich criticized Mitt Romney for mandating Catholic hospitals provide coverage for abortion pills while he was governor.
“You have a very similar pattern again. Over and over you get the same pattern. And I think a Massachusetts moderate finds it very hard to draw a sharp contrast with someone who is an Illinois radical,” Gingrich told a crowd of supporters in Cincinnati on Tuesday.