White House tries to avoid Komen-style backlash
February 9th, 2012
12:29 PM ET

White House tries to avoid Komen-style backlash

With an eye towards the public uproar that forced the Susan G. Komen Foundation to reverse its decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood, the Obama administration is trying to satisfy liberal Catholics who generally support the president without alienating women’s groups and creating a backlash among female voters as it searches for a compromise on the controversial policy governing insurance coverage for contraception.

Publicly, White House officials say the timeline for working out a resolution could take months, pointing out that religiously affiliated employers do not have to comply with the HHS ruling to provide contraceptive coverage until August 2013. But privately, many in the administration and close to the White House say the goal is to find a solution as soon as possible, perhaps as early as tomorrow.

A source familiar with the Catholic community says the Obama administration talked to at least one progressive Catholic organization Wednesday. The White House would not confirm.

Press Secretary Jay Carney said discussions were under way in his daily briefing Wednesday but would not say whether they included parties other than administration officials. “We will press forward with these discussions to see if there’s a way to proceed, to move forward in implementing this policy that allays some of these concerns,” Carney said.

The HHS ruling states employers must provide insurance coverage for FDA-approved contraception, including birth control pills, the morning after pill and intrauterine devices. Churches are exempted but religiously affiliated employers like hospitals, universities and charities are not. That provision has created a rhetorical firestorm, pitting religious freedom against affordable access to contraception.

Sources familiar with White House thinking on a solution to the controversy say the administration is aiming to win over progressive Catholics and is convinced approval from conservative Catholics, most of whom they say would never support the president politically even absent this issue, is out of reach.

Catholic leaders, like the US Conference of Bishops, have said nothing short of a reversal on the policy will allay their concerns.

Topics: President Obama • The News

soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. tigerblood 53

    I must congratulate CNN on "burying " this story off its main page of its website. Be that as it may, this a huge political blunder for the OBOZO administration and no amount of cover from CNN will change that fact.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • ageofknowledge

      Without a doubt it was a blunder. Exercising the raw power of the state to persecute people for maintaining their moral principles is definitely facist.

      February 11, 2012 at 2:39 am |
  2. AmericanWoman

    Mr. President – DO NOT CAVE!!! This is an issue where even the majority of Catholics ignore the teaching of the church. In fact many of the MEN who are making this an issue won't even acknowledge that many women use BC to address other health issues. If they want to do business, they have to follow the rules just like all the other businesses out there. Do not let the women who happen to work for one of their organizations down!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  3. Howard

    If Obama were to get reelected ... and, had FOUR YEARS, without having any accountability to anyone ... we would find ourselves living in an Obama dictatorship, and our country would be lost.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • lolnonsense

      No one is shoving a birth control pill or any other method of contraception down our womens' throat – the mandate simply directs full 'coverage' for contraception. The choice is still there to use it or not, except you won't have to pay $800 a month for it.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
      • Tkevan

        Actually, the law is unconstitutional, in that it 'prohibits the free exercise thereof" of the Catholic religion.

        February 9, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • mike proctor

      Howard "BITE ME" I'm so sick of bigots like you in this Country.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
      • Guest

        Bigot: intolerant person: somebody with strong opinions, especially on politics, religion, or ethnicity, who refuses to accept different views.

        February 9, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
      • Howard

        How can anybody ever trust obama again ... the 73 million Catholics certainly won't be able to trust him ... nor the Jews, after obama has thrown Israel under the bus several times. ... and, now his solution to his own screw ups, is to provide waivers and exemptions to some, and not to others ... resulting in inequality for all. This poor excuse for a President, who divides, polarizes, and pits one group of Americans against the other, has got to go ... and, as soon as possible, if this country is to survive !!!

        February 10, 2012 at 10:55 am |
      • Howard

        Mike get your head out of your As s !!!
        This has NOTHING to do with bigotry ...
        It has everything to do with disrespecting, and doing ANOTHER
        end run around our constitution.

        February 10, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • mongopoo

      How soon we forget the Spanish Inquisition, the denial that the earth was round, and on and on and on. These religious fanatics would take the world back to the Stone Age. No one is being forced to use any of contraceptive devices or meds.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:15 am |
      • John

        Is there anything in your belief system you are totally against? Now think of the governmnet telling you – not only do you need to be for it you must make it available, at your own cost, to everyone who works for you.

        February 10, 2012 at 9:09 am |
      • CableCar

        @John Why yes! I'm totally against these quack "doctors" and their Western medicine – only homeopathic remedies should be used, because all these synthetic drugs are damaging people and the environment.

        So, does that mean I am allowed to not provide health insurance for my employees?

        Here's my point: contraception medication is a legit means of keeping women healthy. Whether you morally oppose its use for yourself or not, you do not have the right to undermine other people's access to it.

        We all have to make compromises to ensure we as a diverse people can live together as a single nation – otherwise we'd still have folks sacrificing goats and stoning each other.

        February 23, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  4. Jeff from Columbus

    This was a stunningly bad political move by the Obama administration. It was born out of either ignorance or arrogance. You simply don't take on the Catholic Church if you're a Democratic President. And that's what Obama did with this decision.

    Why? Why take on the Catholic Church during an election year? Did he think he was just so popular he could survive the backlash? Or, worse, did he not even realize how this decision would be greeted by the Catholic Church?

    Some will argue, "Well, most Catholic believe in birth control anyway". That's not the point. You don't ask Democrats to choose between being Catholic or being a Democrat. You don't ask that of a potential voter.

    And you don't make a move that results in EVERY Catholic Church in America preaching AGAINST you during Sunday services. That's what happened.

    Dumb, dumb, dumb move by Obama. The best move now would be to reverse course, apologize, and move on quickly.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  5. frankyburns

    What sort of religious freedom is involved here? The freedom of bishops to make their employees' health choices? There is no issue of conscience here - the bishops provide a pay package, which the workers earn through their work - it includes both money and insurance - and then the workers (adults) make their own moral choices how to spend the money or use the insurance. These bishops are vastly overblowing the issue. They are concerned about a hypothetical mote in their eye, when there are actually real planks in there (and that's not me who is saying that).

    February 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  6. Blake

    This seems to be a hyped issue with certain conservatives in the Catholic Church trying to score political points. Although some clergy may truly feel this law tramps on their religious freedom I can't help but notice this imortant nuance in the article:

    "Churches are exempted but religiously affiliated employers like hospitals, universities and charities are not"

    So basically were not even talking about churches, and only organizations which actually employ and service people who are not Catholic? What about their rights and freedoms from religion? No offense, but what if it were hospitals, universities and charities related to another religion like Islam? Would people except that employees under those hospitals etc. who are not Muslim should abide by their beliefs and religious doctrine? If the Catholic Church is so worried about it, they shouldn't hire people who would ask for birth control in your religiously affiliated institutions. The only problem with that is many catholics, the majority, are ok with birth control and the clergy is stuck in the 50s. It would be nearly impossible to staff universities, hospitals and charities with non birth control users unless you hired all men. Not sure this hurts President Obama as much as the media is protraying, but this could be more about fundraising/support than votes for the President.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  7. mike proctor

    What in the hell wrong with you people,this subject is being blown way of control,any a/o who states that President Obama is trying to force the Catholic Church go against it faith and beliefs by providing contraception to their employees is totally wrong,what the new health insurance ruling states that if any or all Commerce establishments in this Country who has employees must provide health insurance with contraception available to all female employees. The Catholic Church own numberous types of Commerce that hire different types,races,religious pursuit employees and these establishment made money(lot of money) just like any other business in this Country but yet they do not want to provide these employees with the opition of buying and/ or using contraception at their own free will. I listen to the like of Joe Scarborough who is a has been senator in the ninety who could not handle the heat in the kitchen rant-rage about President Obama handing of this situation, I said to Joe SHUT THE F#%#@ UP because there is no violation of the first amendment here dummy because the employees have the free will to use or not to use this service and this is a business providing this service not a Church. Also I believe it high time the women in this Country start telling the men who are trying to control their well being to back the hell off including all these holy rollers who think they know what best for everybody.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Joey

      Just like we are free to ignore your nonsensical rants.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Txgirl

      Mike we women who remember what it was like before Roe have indeed fought hard to stop these religious zealots from having their way. The problem is organized religion , some more than others,which teaches women from age 6 on to take part in their own oppression. Don't think you would have much success starting a church that taught black people that they are inferior and should be working in fields under their white masters. And you sure wouldn't get blqck people to recruit other black people to join such a church, start nonprofits run by black people with the express purpose of oppressing black people. I certainly do not mean to offend black people; this is just the best way possible to illustrate true origins of misogyny, present in all three world religions. We have made great progress against racism, but sexism is here to stay , getting worse now because of a shift to fringe fundamentalist religions the last 30 years. Parents and religions begin this subtle brainwashing in childhood. "Eve was bad, responsible for the downfall of mankind." Sexism is acceptable because religion, certainly including Christianity, teaches it is not only acceptable but a requirement to be a Good Christian, gain entrance to heaven. I thought this was a radical observation until I read about Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Google her. It's really sad that our country is dumbing down in this way, a sign of decline.

      February 9, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • sensible

      Not one higher up in the Catholic church cared about their followers using birth control (as long as it was in secret and they didn't brag about it) until the GOP lost Bachman and Perry. With R.S. being the only viable candidate left (even a Catholic is better than a Mormon) suddenly Catholic's are all over it. Geeeeeze, what a bunch.

      February 9, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • gavinsox

      Read your post Mike and think about what you just said "all Commerce establishments in this Country who has employees must provide health insurance with contraception available to all female employees." The key operative word is "must" which is a mandate to make contraception available to "all" female emplyees. And what happens if they don't Mike, does the government take the funding away from these organization?

      February 10, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  8. Raymond Ryan

    The HHS Mandate Must be reversed NOW, not later as dictated. I will not again vote for Obama as long as it stands. Any American caring for our God-given religious freedom and the intent of our Constitution should think seriously at the danger present in this issue. Raymond Ryan, Ct

    February 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  9. M

    The compromise should be that these faith affiliated organizations that do not want to comply with this mandate to provide birth control not be tax exempt. As a Christian I think that it is ridiculous that it is 2012 and people are still arguing about birth control. The government is not forcing anyone to take it. They simply have it available. To deny anyone access to birth control is just wrong.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  10. Stephanie P.

    I agree w ith you totally Republicans are always starting Sh$T.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  11. Guest

    So this kind of ideology means that an employer could deny coverage for unwed mothers and their illegitimate children for religious beliefs. Just about any belief could be use to deny benefits to employees. Divorce or breaking a commandment or being of a different religion altogether could be justified as religious belief.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • jerry R

      perhaps employers will just quit providing insurance...and let everyone go to the government for health care...this is what obama and his ilk are after... it's called HEALTHCARE RATIONING, the rulers will control your health care.... so if your good with this then so be it. But, I'll tell you this those of us who have money will still get better health care..as always. And you suckers who believe in this kind of governing will get what you deserve.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • jean2009

      Guest don't listen to Jerryisexlax who is clueless to the fact that Medicare works, and works very efficiently. Yes... we need a national single payer health care system and eventually we will get there (hopefully)....but the big stumbling block as always is the same Church based opposition intent on controlling people's lives with 2nd Century mythology.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  12. jerry R

    weekly we see obama overreach..he really believes he is the one and only politician who knows what is best for our country. He ignores the law of the land and other elected officials from both parties...he ignores advice from military leaders... One can only believe he has an agenda and he will advance it no matter what it costs this country economically, legally, or militarily. No doubt he has no regard for America or OUR way of life and ideal of freedom. He knows what he is doing and he knows he will be stopped at the polls and he is burning Rome on his way out. Just don't let the door hit you on the behind barack/barry or who ever you are because it is closing fast!

    February 9, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  13. jerry R

    there are clinics in every town offering contraception to anyone free or near free....and yet 350,000 abortions last year and hundreds of thousands of welfare mothers having babies without fathers.... so, forcing churches to do this will NOT solve the problem....this is just politics, vote pandering...which is all obama can offer you in reality.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Txgirl

      Jerry in case you haven't noticed republicans are attacking "free clinics that provide contraception" ie Planned Parenthood at every possible opportunity. They have a "personhood" amendment that would have a doctor arrested for murder for operating for ectopic pregnancy in order to save the woman's life. A zygote, an undifferentiated clump of cells thatt hadn't even implanted in the uterus yet, would have more rights than the woman. I'm in my fifties and never would have believed that in the 21st century this nation could backslide into such ignorant Taliban like religious zealotry. It is so tragic, and a clear sign of dumbing down decline.

      February 9, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  14. jean2009

    Or, mental health insurance coverage could be denied if you worked for a university, hospital or business owned by the Church of Scientology; since that is against their religious belief's.

    This is not the employer's money it is the worker's wage benefits which they have earned as part of their wages that pays for their health insurance premium. Since when can an employer tell you which house you can purchase with your money, or which car you can buy with your wages, ....so if you as an employee with wage insurance benefits feel you want and need contraception as a part of your insurance why should your employer be allowed to tell you how you can spend your wages?

    Bottom line if the employee is laid-off from work and doesn't earn enough wage hours to qualify for their insurance premium who do you think has to pay for the premium out of their unemployment income?
    Get a clue here folks....it is not about the Church. It is about the employee and what they want covered in the insurance policy for which they are paying. If they don't want contraception then they need not request a prescription from their doctor. No one is holding a gun to their heads.

    Most of this controversy is being stirred up by big insurers. The more money they can earn from Church based captive payees without providing them contraceptive services the more they will make.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • jerrylax

      I can see why mental health insurance coverage is important to you.

      February 9, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
      • Trace

        I can't wait for you and your kind to leave the scene and fight for 2016 stupidity, as will be the case under Re=dumb-lick=um's

        Jean2009 is a woman and should be allowed to voice her opinion on this subject. Are you voicing your opinion because you have a woman's reproductive right?....Huh?...Can't hear you? Please tell us ALL why you have a right to voice your continued stupidity on this subject?

        Show up a women's clinic turd breathe ...otherwise get of the stage, we're all so tired of you

        February 10, 2012 at 12:23 am |
      • jerrylax

        @trace... I have no rights, I'm a white male. I've been working and paying taxes for nearly 50 years, I raised my family and paid for their educations, bought my home and paid for it, and just generally carried my own load...never took welfare (could have) and never welched on a loan. Fought a war, buried a wife...andI've traveled the world... But I'm so ignorant I shouldn't even speak...because I don't agree with lame brained left wing fools like you...cry me a river! Take another pill and sleep it off!

        February 10, 2012 at 1:41 am |
  15. Joey

    It's easy, just issues waivers like the unions got.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • jerrylax

      with obama it is all about getting your vote...no morality or responsibility behind it...just power...nothing more to it. Trouble is someday someone has to clean up the mess ...and

      February 10, 2012 at 1:43 am |
  16. Bill

    It's funny to watch the Catholic Church insist that employment discrimination is legal if it's part of your religious dogma.

    A hospital isn't a church. If the Catholics can't find a way to treat their non-catholic workers fairly, then they should divest themselves of the hospitals and let others run them.

    February 9, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  17. Not getting it

    The issue is not about health care or providing women with contraception. Very few people stop at stop signs. under the current logic, stop signs should be done away with. What it is about is the government dictating how a religious group must believe and it s about the government determining which rules the are acceptable to THE GOVERNMENT. Name calling by non-believers is not reason enough to remove the rights of that group. If it was, Gay mariage would still be outlawed in every state. BUT...if this is the kind of country you want were the mob rule goes...be careful what you wish for.

    February 9, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  18. Not getting it

    First,let's cut through the crap and stop forcing others to go against their religious beliefs. Has nothing to do with this issue.
    Contraception- about $40/month. Abortion about 500-$1000/procedure.
    Employees making greater than $60,000.00 can afford the above out of pocket. So let's get to those this is about.
    For any employer (ANY employer) who does not provide contraception or abortion services in their plans, they are required to pay those employees making less than $60,000/year an additional $0.50/hr for the reduced plan. This comes out to be $1040/year additional pay. Enough for contraception and almost an abortion/year. Perhaps the amount should be .350/hr. (pills every year- abortion about every three years.) Tye old adage- KISS works here too.

    February 9, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  19. jerrylax

    all of this diversion... Health insurance has worked in America, it built our system. The concept of insurance is the identification of risk and pooling funds to pay claims...and this is actuarially managed. Without insurance world commerce would not exist. In American insurance was used to provide health care...and it worked for decades... then came medicare and medicaid...programs managed by the govt and funded by taxes. It was the mismanagement of these govt programs that corrupted our model. 25 years ago I saw insurance carriers begin to struggle with claims and premiums as their margins began to suffer...there were increasing premium taxes,cost shifting from providers (docs and hospitals over charging to insured patients to make up for low medicare/medicaid reimbursements). We all knew the govt was mismanaging our social insurance...spending the funds elsewhere. Now, the solution is obama care...expanded social insurance...right!

    Oh you should know insurance companies are highly regulated..by the states...their profit margins, premium charges, and benefits...they do nothing without govt approval. This is another failure of govt oversight...so the solution is more govt control?

    February 9, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • KatR

      I feel it is important to respond to your post. Medicare and Medicaid are govt programs provided for either seniors or the poor. The private health insurnce industry prior to ACA overloaded these 2 programs by refusing to sell their product to those with pre-existing conditions and/or refusing to pay anymore claims because the enrollee claims had reached the lifetime max amount. ACA stopped these practices, which should eventually lead to less and less Americans becoming eligible for them. One of the biggest reasons health care costs have skyrocketed in this country can be traced back to a piece of legislation signed in 1986 by Pres. Reagan. A phrase within that legislation mandated that hospitals across the country cannot turn away a patient due to "citizenship or ability to pay". This led to overflowing ERs that included the births of thousands of anchor babies. Obamacare, as you call it, could have been the govt only solution to health care. But it does not. Instead, via regulation, it does its best to shift the costs of govt in the health care arena to the private sector where it belongs. To use your own words about insurers...."their margins began to suffer"...is why they are lobbying hard to repeal this legislation. And, unfortunately, blind Americans like yourself to the whole complex picture.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:40 am |
      • jean2009

        Thank you for explaining this so clearly and eloquently. However, I assure you your use of facts, truth, and reason are undoubtedly wasted on jerryexlax.

        February 10, 2012 at 10:00 am |
      • Trace


        I echo Jean's sentiments....exlax is THE MOST "bass-awkwards" individual this side of "stupid-dum" He believe's a woman's rights to have contraceptives, reforming the insurance system to include others who couldn't afford it, and would otherwise be at risk, even access for children with pre-existing conditions, someone impeds upon him personally.

        This individual has no idea that when a uninsured person that walks into an emergency room, and by law and decency, receives medical services totally tens of thousands of $'s, doesn't or can't pay, that the rest of us with insurance pay for it out of our premiums. And the problems continue because that person can't get follow check ups but has to deal with catastrophic returns to emergency.

        So all that being said, YOU CAN'T FIX STUPID AND exlax has cornered the market...nonetheless, Good Try

        February 11, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • jean2009

      So much for health insurance companies not being profitable....in what universe do you live?
      "Health Insurance Industry Fudges Data To Downplay Its Astronomical Profits"

      February 10, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  20. george of the jungle

    Womans rights come first . this is a 60 year old issue and if it where not this president no one would say anything 26 states already have this law. Including Mitts. Exlax the rest of us have raised familys and served our country. For some reason repos think that to be libral is to be unpatriotic. You are wrong we go to church too. And maybe we don't whine as much as you but we love this country . And watching the rich repo party tare it apart is appaling. Tired of listening to a party that spouts family values and then supports people that have open or multipul marriages yet critize others for the same. Hipocracy runs amuch and religious zellots want to impose their rule over all Americans. Whats wrong with you. Why is it only a free country if we believe what you do? Not everyone that workes at these hospitals is catholic or even Christian what should they do?? Don't they have rights ?

    February 10, 2012 at 11:56 am |