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Entries in Contraception (25)

Wednesday
Oct172012

Mitt Romney Changes Argument on Contraception at Debate

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It doesn’t quite have the same ring as “binders full of women,” but a comment Mitt Romney made during Tuesday’s presidential debate about contraception has added fuel to the narrative that he has adopted more moderate policy positions in the final weeks of the campaign.

“I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not, and I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they can have contraceptive care or not,” Romney said. “Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives, and the president’s statement of my policy is completely and totally wrong.”

That comment appeared to be inconsistent with previous remarks Romney has made during the campaign about contraception.  Those previous comments have been used by the Obama campaign to portray Romney as a bad choice for women.

Under Obama’s Affordable Care Act, all employers were initially required to provide contraception. A compromise later made religious organizations exempt, though not affiliated institutions such as Catholic hospitals and colleges.

In February, when that compromise was reached, Romney called it “an assault on religious conviction.”

“I find it extraordinary that [President Obama] feels he can tell the Catholic Church what they have to provide for their employees, including devices and instruments they find contrary to their conscience,” Romney said at a town hall in Maine.

In August, he doubled down, running a television ad that accused the White House of declaring a “war on religion.”

“President Obama used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith,” the ad said. “Mitt Romney believes that’s wrong.”

Bill Donahue of the Catholic League, a group that has been critical of the contraception clause of the Affordable Health Act, said Romney’s comments at the debate “could be read as being inconsistent.”

However, Donahue gave him the benefit of the doubt.

“I think Romney meant that employers should be allowed to make that decision [to provide contraception] on their own, without the federal government telling them they have to provide it,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
May212012

Notre Dame, Catholic Dioceses Sue Obama Over Contraception Mandate

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Forty-three Catholic groups, including the University of Notre Dame and Archdioceses of New York and Washington, have sued the Obama administration over a controversial mandate requiring employers to offer insurance plans that include contraception coverage.

In a coordinated filing of 12 lawsuits in federal courts across the country, the groups argue that the mandate would unconstitutionally force religiously-affiliated institutions, like Catholic schools and hospitals, to indirectly subsidize contraception for female employees in violation of religious beliefs.

President Obama in February attempted to accommodate the groups’ concerns with an administrative compromise he said would ensure no religious organization had to pay for or provide the services directly.  But today’s lawsuits signal that the Catholics groups found the effort insufficient.

“We have tried negotiation with the Administration and legislation with the Congress – and we’ll keep at it – but there’s still no fix,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said in a statement. “Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now.”

Catholic officials said one reason behind the decision to file suit was the need to have clarity ahead of decisions about which health plans to provide employees in the coming year, or whether to offer health insurance at all.

One Catholic college in Ohio -– the Franciscan University of Steubenville -– announced last week that it was discontinuing its health insurance plan because of the contraception mandate.

The lawsuits, which name the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury, are being coordinated by the high-profile law firm Jones Day, church officials said.

The White House declined to comment on the new lawsuits.  But senior Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod suggested support for the president’s compromise should be “common sense.”

“I think that the administration struck a common sense rule here that doesn’t ask these institutions in any way to sponsor contraceptive services for their employees, many of whom aren’t catholic, but gives the employees a chance to access those services through a third party,” Axelrod told MSNBC. “These institutions don’t have to pay for it, don’t have to sponsor it. And I think most people agree that’s an appropriate compromise.”

In a March ABC News/Washington Post poll, Americans were broadly supportive of the regulation in general – 61 percent in favor, 35 percent opposed – but not if religiously-affiliated employers were forced to comply in violation of its religious beliefs. In that case, support dropped to about an even split, 49-46 percent.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar182012

Scott Brown Jabs at Santorum Over Secret Service and Contraception 

Scott J. Ferrell/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) joked at a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast that Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum’s secret service detail may be the first time he’s ever “used protection.”

“I’m hopeful that all of you are actually following presidential politics. I see that both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum now have secret service with them on the campaign trail and in Santorum’s case, I think it’s the first time he’s actually ever used protection, so yeah, yeah. Just saying,” Brown said.

The joke was a jab at Santorum’s stance against contraception. The former Pennsylvania senator has repeatedly said he believes the use of birth control is morally wrong and that he supports proposed legislation that would allow companies to deny health insurance coverage of birth control to its employees if it conflicts with the company’s views.

Eric Ferhnstrom, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s campaign, is also an adviser to Brown.

Brown also took the chance to poke fun at Newt Gingrich over his moon colony proposal and at Ron Paul.

“You all know that Newt Gingrich wants to build a colony on the moon,” he said. “Forget the moon. I think he should build it on whatever planet Ron Paul’s from. That’ll work.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar152012

Arizona Bill Would Let More Employers Nix Contraceptive Coverage

Michael Matisse/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) -- A state bill in Arizona would expand the right to deny contraception health coverage for all employers who carry religious beliefs, not just churches.

Patrick McNerney, owner of Ave Maria Pharmacy in Prescott Valley, Ariz., said he supports the bill because he does not sell contraception in his pharmacy.

McNerney's four employees are family members who are covered under his insurance plan. But he said if his business one day expanded and provided insurance for its employees he would not want to be forced to pay for coverage for contraception because of his Catholic beliefs.

He runs a "pro-life pharmacy" and the issue is not covering the cost of contraceptives, the generic versions of which can cost $9 a month, he said.

"I specifically opened this pharmacy so I could practice according to the morals of the Catholic Church that I live by," McNerney, 58, said.

Arizona's House Bill 2625 was endorsed by the state's Senate Judiciary Committee this week after passing the House. The law could be approved by the state Senate and signed into law by Gov. Janice Brewer in the next month, said Deborah Sheasby, legal counsel for the Center for Arizona Policy, which supports the bill.

The bill reforms a state contraception mandate that was passed in 2002, the Contraceptive Equity Law. That law required insurers to allow access to all FDA-approved drugs, including emergency contraceptive drugs. But that law provides exception to a "religious employer" that "primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the entity" and "serves persons who share the religious tenets of the entity."

One aspect of the bill that has attracted criticism but is already in the 2002 law requires those employed by an employer prohibiting contraception coverage to submit a doctor's prescription if a contraceptive drug is required for medical purposes.

Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Arizona, called that provision "extraordinary" that women with a religious employer could access birth control from a plan that otherwise doesn't cover it if they can attest they are not taking the contraception in order to have sex, regardless of whether they are married or not.

At issue is not whether one should or should not use contraception, Sheasby said.

"The bill is about the religious liberties of employers and paying for something against their religious beliefs," she said.

Sheasby said the 2002 law's exemption was "so narrow" that it only applied to churches or houses of worship, and forced faith-based social service groups and businesses to pay for or support services that were against their beliefs.

Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, represents the five bishops in the state in the matter. The conference failed in its attempt to get the 2002 law vetoed after it was passed.

He said under the current law, which provides an exemption to entities that hire and serve people of the same faith, "Jesus couldn't qualify because he helped anyone."

Howard disagrees that the issue is about religious freedom.

"The idea that this has to do with religious freedom as opposed to women's health and health care is rather odd because if contraception is withheld on religious grounds of an employer, what he or she is doing is taking away the religious liberty of all his female employees who are no longer able to access health care according to their faith," he said.

Howard called it "disappointing" that women had contraceptive health access for a decade until the bill was introduced, calling it a "setback" to equal access to medication.

Johnson points out that the bill won't allow just any employer to require a prescription for contraceptives, but only those that have religious beliefs against paying for them. And he said the incentive for an employer to fake religious beliefs to get out of contraceptive coverage for economic reasons seems "extremely unlikely."

"The fact is employers were covering it anyway," he said. "I don't think employers are going to take unnecessary grief [to remove coverage] unless they have these beliefs."

Johnson said the number of private employers who are seeking this exemption "is actually a pretty small universe."

"But it's very important to them," he said. "That's not to say we are not concerned about women's health or all people. This is about religious liberties and protecting those rights."

McNerney said he was in favor of allowing the free market determine what should be included in insurance plans.

"If that's not included in the compensation package of the company you work for, and it's that important to you, you could always look for a job in another place," he said.

Joan Williams, law professor and director of the Center for Work Life Law at the University of California, Hastings, said similar bills have been introduced across the country, which she called "troubling" from a constitutional viewpoint.

"I understand it can be troubling for someone who doesn't believe in contraception to have to cover contraception as part of health coverage," she said. "But number one, women have a constitutional right to control their reproductive lives and to say to any women, 'You have no constitutional right if you're employed [by a religious employer],' leaves no constitutional right."

The Center for Arizona Policy, which represents several evangelical churches in Arizona, does not take a position on contraception but says it supports the bill because it supports "religious liberties."

Sheasby said that sentiment is in line "across the board" with those of many churches and pastors who also do not take a position on the use of contraceptives.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar012012

Santorum Attacks Romney on Birth Control Amendment

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(ATLANTA) -- Rick Santorum clobbered Mitt Romney in Atlanta Thursday for an interview the former Massachusetts governor did the day before in which Romney seemed to say he did not support an amendment that would try to curtail the Obama administration’s new requirements on contraception coverage.

The Romney campaign quickly clarified Wednesday that the candidate does support the amendment, that he was just confused by the way the reporter phrased the question. Yet Thursday at a rally Santorum said it offers “insight into what’s in the gut of Governor Romney.”

The amendment, which was sponsored by Republican Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt and was voted down Thursday in the Senate, would have rolled back the Obama administration’s controversial requirement that all institutions providing health insurance -- including Catholic universities and hospitals -- must cover contraception, including emergency contraception.

“Having a conscience-clause exemption used to be something that Democrats and Republicans all agreed to. Now it’s not. When Governor Romney was asked that question, his knee-jerk reaction was, ‘No, I can’t be for that,’” Santorum said at an airplane hangar rally in front of about 150 people. “And then after his consultants talked to him, he came back and said, ‘Oh, I didn’t understand the question.’… I tell you if I was asked a question like that, my gut reaction would be always, my gut reaction would be, you stand for the First Amendment. You stand for freedom of religion.”

He told the audience in this Super Tuesday state, which holds the most delegates, that they need a nominee who “at their core beliefs is going to step up and fight, not put them on the backburner and just focus on one or two things that may be popular, like cutting taxes.”

During an interview with the Ohio News Network on Wednesday, Romney said he did not support the proposal that would allow employers to opt out of providing coverage for birth control if they disagreed with it. Thursday in North Dakota he said he was “in favor” of the amendment.

“Look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, husband and wife, I’m not going there,” Romney told the reporter.

Santorum told the Georgia voters Thursday that he wants to do well in every Super Tuesday state. “Georgia needs to be part of that,” Santorum said. He spent the rest of Thursday campaigning in Washington state ahead of its caucus on Saturday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar012012

Senate Blocks Blunt’s Repeal of Contraception Mandate

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate voted Thursday to block a Republican challenge to President Obama’s birth-control mandate. The legislation, sponsored by Republican Roy Blunt of Missouri, was voted down 51 to 48. It would have let employers refuse to include contraception in health care coverage based on their “religious belief or moral conviction.”

Blunt’s legislation, an amendment to a transportation bill, was a response to Obama’s mandate that contraception services be covered by most religious groups.

The amendment wasn’t expected to pass. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he had allowed the vote because Republicans wouldn’t let the transportation bill advance without a vote on the contraception measure. Democrats characterized the Blunt amendment as a measure that would deny women access to contraception.

Before the vote, Blunt spoke on the floor of the Senate to argue that his proposal wouldn’t change “the world that we live in right now.” He said, “People have the same protection today to exert their religious views in their health care policies that they provide as an employer that they would have if this amendment passed.

“It may not change any minds today, but this issue will not go away unless the administration decides to take it away by giving people of faith these First Amendment protections,” he said.

The White House opposed the measure in a statement from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who said that it would “allow employers that have no religious affiliation to exclude coverage of any health service, no matter how important, in the health plan they offer to their workers.”

Obama drew criticism from conservatives last month after announcing his birth-control mandate, although he later allowed faith-based employers to opt out of the rule, winning over some Catholics.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar012012

Romney Campaign Clarifies His Contraception Bill Statement

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Mitt Romney waffled Wednesday on a Senate proposal that would repeal President Obama’s controversial requirement that insurance companies cover contraception for women employees.

During an interview with the Ohio News Network, Romney said he did not back a proposal by Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt -- who has endorsed Romney -- that would allow employers to opt out of providing coverage for birth control.  Romney said he didn’t want to belabor the contraception issue.

“I’m not for the bill, but look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a women, husband and wife, I’m not going there,” Romney said, later adding, “You know, I made it very clear when I was being interviewed by George Stephanopoulos in a debate a while ago: contraception is working just fine, let’s just leave it alone.”

A separate measure is being offered by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., that is seen as a more narrow version that more moderates will support.  The two amendments were conflated in the question to Romney.

But Romney’s campaign quickly sent a clarifying message that the former Massachusetts governor does in fact support the bill.

“Regarding the Blunt bill, the way the question was asked was confusing.  Governor Romney supports the Blunt Bill because he believes in a conscience exemption in health care for religious institutions and people of faith,” said Andrea Saul, Romney’s spokesperson.

The measure sponsored by Blunt would enable any employer, even those not affiliated with a religious institution, the ability to not provide health insurance that covers birth control. The measure sponsored by Rubio gives an exemption only to employers with religious affiliations.

If passed, the amendment would allow any employer or any insurer in America to be given an exemption to not cover contraception -- or any service they choose -- based “religious belief or moral conviction.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb292012

Senate Showdown Over Contraception, Birth-Control Mandate Repeal Vote

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- On Thursday the Senate will be voting on a repeal of the White House’s controversial birth-control mandate.

It’s a debate that has already sparked impassioned rhetoric and fierce partisanship, and shone a spotlight on an ideological hot topic with some cracks within parties.  Senators will be forced to put their vote publicly on the record for the first time.

Republicans argue that this amendment is about protecting religious freedom. Democrats argue that the amendment is an assault on women’s health.

In the spotlight is the Republican amendment, the “Respect Rights of Conscience Act,” offered by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.  It is a response to the White House’s controversial contraception mandate.  If passed, the amendment would allow any employer or any insurer in America to be given an exemption from covering contraception -- or any service they choose -- based on “religious belief or moral conviction.”

“This is a fundamental matter of religious freedom and the proper role of our federal government. It’s about who we are as Americans and renewing our commitment to the principles upon which this nation was founded,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said in defense of the amendment. “Unfortunately, many have tried to characterize this amendment as denying women access to contraception. That’s a red herring, and it’s false. We are talking about government mandates that are interfering with conscience protections here that have long been ingrained in our law.”

Republicans argue that this is about a faith principle that the First Amendment guarantees, and point out that the word “contraception” is not mentioned once in the legislation.

Some conservative Democrats agree with this too. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced Wednesday he will be voting for the amendment, saying that for him it “comes down to our religious liberties.”

“I truly believe that we must safeguard Americans’ right to exercise their sincerely held religious views, and I support this measure to protect that freedom of conscience,” Manchin said in a statement late Wednesday.

But most Senate Democrats argue that the amendment is nothing more than “politics masquerading as morality,” and is a “radical departure” that gives employers “broad discretion” to deny employees coverage. They argue this could put a woman’s health at risk, with services including contraception, mammograms, pre-natal screenings, cervical cancer screenings, and potentially even flu shots not being offered.

“If this amendment passes, it would ban contraception coverage for any woman in America whose boss has a personal objection to it,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday.  “The measure would force women to surrender control of their own health decision to their bosses. That concept is not merely quaint or old-fashioned, it is dangerous and it is wrong.”

Additionally, Democrats argue that the law is too broad and that it is hard to define what “religious” or “moral” issue could be that an employer could claim.

“Under the Blunt amendment, if an employer has a conviction against smoking they can refuse treatments for lung cancer or emphysema. If an employer says ‘I don’t approve of drinking and I refuse to cover any treatment program for alcoholism or substance abuse,’ they could do it,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said Wednesday, “It puts the personal opinions of employers over the practice of medicine.”

Democrats argue that this amendment would also go beyond women’s health -- that it would affect men, children and families as well. They argue that employers could limit access to childhood immunizations if they personally objected to them, or cut off coverage for prenatal care for children born to unmarried parents if they thought that was wrong.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has allowed the amendment to get a vote as part of an unrelated bill, the surface transportation bill, because he says it’s clear Republicans will hold up the bill until this amendment is allowed a vote.

The amendment is not expected to pass but it does put many Senators -- moderate Republicans and some Democrats -- in a difficult and tricky position, having to go on the record with their vote on this for the first time.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, in an interview about her decision to leave Congress, said the amendment too broad for her, and she’d favor a narrower bill sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

“I think it’s much broader than I could support,” Snowe said Wednesday, “I think we should focus on the issue of contraceptives and whether or not it should be included in a health insurance plan and what requirements there should be.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb282012

Senate to Vote on Repeal of Obama’s Contraception Mandate

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate will vote Thursday on the controversial repeal of the administration’s birth-control mandate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Tuesday.

“After discussing it with numerous senators, I decided we should set up a vote on contraception and women’s health,” the Nevada Democrat said.  “Once we’ve put this extreme and distracting proposal behind us, I hope my Republican colleagues will stop living in the past and join us this year, 2012.”

The Republican amendment, offered by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., is a response to the White House’s contraception mandate and if passed would permit employers to exclude health care services that they find immoral from their insurance plans.

Blunt has called the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate and the subsequent White House’s updated contraception rule “unconstitutional.”

“Just because you can come up with an accounting gimmick and pretend like religious institutions do not have to pay for the mandate, does not mean that you’ve satisfied the fundamental constitutional freedoms that all Americans are guaranteed,” Blunt said after the White House tweaked the original proposal in early February to reflect that religious-affiliated institutions will not be mandated to cover birth control for their employees.

“I’ll continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that we reverse this unconstitutional mandate in its entirety,” he promised then.

Since then, Republicans have been pushing for a vote for the amendment, attempting to no avail to get a vote within non-germane bills. At least once before, a vote on the repeal amendment was blocked by Reid.

But now the amendment will get a vote -- in an unrelated bill, as an amendment to the surface transportation bill that is making its way through the Senate.

Reid said Tuesday he’s allowing the vote on the Blunt amendment because Republicans have made it clear the transportation bill won’t move forward without one.

“What’s standing in the way is Republicans’ insistence on having a vote on a measure that would deny women access to health services like contraception and even prenatal screenings,” Reid said. “The Republican leader and others on the Republican side of the aisle made it very clear the Senate is not going to be able to move forward on this important surface transportation bill unless we vote on contraception and women’s health.”

Senate Democrats argue that the Blunt amendment is a “radical departure” that gives employers “broad discretion” to deny employees coverage for services including contraception, mammograms, pre-natal screenings, cervical cancer screenings and potentially even flu shots, which could put women’s health at risk.

They argue that it is not a religious issue, as Republicans say, and is a women’s health issue.

The announcement Tuesday that Reid would allow a vote on the repeal amendment did not go over well among Democrats, even though they admitted that a vote must happen to move forward with the transportation bill.

“We’re in a situation in the 21st century where in order to move forward on a highway bill that funds our highways, our roads, our bridges, our transit systems, in order to move forward on that jobs bill, where 2.8 million jobs are at stake in this great nation, we have to have a vote on birth control,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said on the Senate floor. “I just want to say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, what are you thinking?”

While the amendment is not expected to pass, this sets up a politically tricky vote for some Senate Democrats like Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who were either against or expressed reservations about the original and updated mandate.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb232012

States File Suit Against Contraception Mandate

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(OMAHA, Neb.) -- Nebraska, joined by Republican attorneys general of six other states, filed suit in federal court Thursday challenging the Obama administration’s policy requiring most health insurance plans to cover preventive services for women, including contraception and the morning-after pill, without a co-pay.

The states argue the policy forces religious schools, non-profits and employers to violate their religious and faith-based beliefs by providing insurance plans covering services that conflict with those beliefs.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Nebraska, argues, “The First Amendment has for centuries served as a rampart against government interference with religious liberty.”

The Obama administration altered the policy in early February amid fierce criticism from advocates of religious liberty.

The president announced an accommodation that would allow women to obtain free contraception by obtaining it directly from the insurance company if their employers object to it out of religious concerns.

But the attorneys general reject the accommodation. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a statement, “Any rule, regulation or law that forces faith-based institutions to provide for services that violate their free exercise of religion, or that penalizes them for failing to kneel at the altar of government, is a flat-out violation of the First Amendment.”

The states joining Nebraska are Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.

Co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit are two individuals, two nonprofit corporations (Catholic Social Services and the Catholic Mutual Relief Society of America) and Pius X Catholic High School (in Nebraska).

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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