Obama compromises on birth control rule

Updated: 2012-02-11 03:54


  Comments() Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0
WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama on Friday announced a compromise that aimed at soothing the concerns of some religious organizations over a new federal rule requiring most religious-affiliated employers to provide free birth control coverage.

The move came as the contention over the rule escalated in recent days, with many Catholic leaders who are against abortion and contraception accusing the policy of intruding their religious faith. Meanwhile, women's groups and liberal organizations were strongly in favor of the rule and urged the Obama administration not to cave in.

The original rule, engraved in Obama's signature healthcare law, required that religious-affiliated employers cover birth control free of charge as preventive care for women. While churches and houses of worships were exempted from the requirement, others like religious universities and hospitals were not.

"As we move to implement this rule, however, we've been mindful that there's another principle at stake here. That's the principle of religious liberty," Obama said in a White House announcement.

Under the revised policy, religious-affiliated employers will not have to pay for or provide contraceptive services. Instead the employers' insurance companies are required to do so free of charge.

The White House justified the new burden on the part of insurance companies with the argument that covering contraception saves money for insurance companies by keeping women healthy and preventing spending on other health services.

Faith-based organizations will be given another year to implement the new rule, which takes effect on Aug. 1, 2012.

The fact that Obama made a formal White House announcement reflects the high stakes the issue has. Both Catholics and females are critical voting blocs in U.S. presidential elections.

"I understand that some folks in Washington may want to treat this as some sort of political wedge issue. But it shouldn't be," said the president, who is seeking a second term in the election year.