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White House's Jack Lew defends revised birth-control rule

February 12, 2012|By David G. Savage

White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew said Sunday that President Obama had found the “right balance” in mandating birth control coverage while protecting religious liberty, and he said the administration would now press ahead to adopt a final rule requiring health insurers to make contraceptives available to all policyholders at no cost.

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

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

Amid complaints that the administration was infringing on religious freedom, Obama announced that no religious institution that objects to birth control would have to provide it or pay for it. Instead, such a company's insurer will be obliged to offer contraceptive coverage at no cost to the firm's employees who wish to have 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.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he too would continue to fight the administration over contraceptives. He said he would press legislation that would exempt all employers from providing insurance coverage 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,” McConnell said on CBS’ Face the Nation. “This is what happens when the government tries to take over health care and tries to interfere with your religious beliefs.”

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