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Key Republican promises fight over birth control coverage

Sen. Mitch McConnell says the issue won't go away until Obama 'simply backs down.' The White House says the plan strikes the 'right balance' to protect religious liberty.

February 12, 2012|By David G. Savage, Washington Bureau
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington last week.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) addresses the Conservative… (Win McNamee / Getty Images )

Reporting from Washington — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed Sunday to fight the administration's requirement that insurers provide contraceptive coverage for faith-based employers.

McConnell said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that he would press legislation to exempt all employers from providing insurance coverage for contraceptives if they have religious or moral objections.

"We'll be voting on that in the Senate, and you can anticipate that would happen as soon as possible.…This issue will not go away until the administration simply backs down," he said. "This is what happens when the government tries to take over healthcare and tries to interfere with your religious beliefs."

White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew countered that President Obama had found the "right balance" in providing birth control while protecting religious liberty. He said the administration would press ahead to adopt a final rule requiring health insurers to make contraceptives available to all employees at no cost.

This is "the right policy" and a "very good resolution" of the dispute that flared between Catholic leaders and the White House, Lew said in a series of appearances on talk shows Sunday.

"We didn't expect there would be universal acceptance" of the compromise announced Friday, he said, but a "broad range of groups" applauded Obama's plan.

Facing complaints that the administration was infringing on religious freedom, Obama announced that no religious institution that objected to birth control would have to provide it or pay for it. Instead, their insurers would be obliged to offer the contraceptive coverage at no cost to employees who wanted it.

"This is not going to cost the insurance companies," Lew said on ABC's "This Week," because birth control reduces costs over the long term.

Catholic bishops have said they would continue to fight the administration's plan because they oppose the mandate to provide contraceptives, even if religiously affiliated organizations are shielded from paying for them.

david.savage@latimes.com

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