Seeking to allay the concerns of Catholic leaders, the White House is planning to adjust its health care rule requiring religious employers to provide women access to contraception, a senior administration official said.
President Obama is scheduled to announce the change during an appearance before reporters in the White House at 12:15 p.m. He is trying to head off a growing political problem, after angering Catholic church officials with his decision Jan. 20 to grant only a narrow exemption to the health-care rule.
Republicans are vowing to reverse President Barack Obama’s new policy on birth control, blasting the rule that religious schools and hospitals must provide contraceptive coverage for their employees as an attack on religious freedom.
No information was available about the details of the new accommodation, which was first reported by ABC News. But a senior administration official cautioned that the White House will stick to the principle of guaranteeing free contraception coverage for women.
I’ll see what this adjustment means specifically before commenting, but I feel confident predicting that the Obama administration is about to get Komenned — that is, get the Susan B. Komen foundation treatment. If it backs off its decision, its allies will be furious at the backtracking under pressure, and those made happy by the decision will still never again trust this administration, or at least will always regard it warily on issues of religious liberty. This will still be a big issue this fall for goading GOP turnout, as it well should be. If this is how the Obama administration regards religious liberty, they really cannot be trusted to do the right thing in future questions, especially those having to do with conflicts between religious freedom and gay rights, which everybody can see coming down the pike. Indeed, I think one reason this flamed up into such a huge issue among conservatives is that we knew, or at least intuited, that this is a dress rehearsal for much bigger legal fights to come.
This is a no-win situation for the White House, and one of its own making. Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee, today at CPAC, said, “Thanks to President Obama, we are all Catholics now.”