Obama's Birth Control Shift Doesn't Silence Critics

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THE WHITE HOUSE -- President Barack Obama modified a rule in his health care plan Friday that required virtually all organizations - including religious institutions -- to offer free contraceptives to their employees.

The birth control coverage mandate also included the controversial "morning after" pill.

After growing pressure from both sides of the aisle, and religious leaders across the country, Obama announced a solution he believes addresses the concerns of religious liberty while achieving his goal to make free contraception available to all women regardless of where they work.

Under the new rule:

  • Churches are exempt.
  • Religious institutions, like Catholic hospitals, will receive contracts from their insurance providers that state birth control is not covered.

Click play to watch CBN News Reporter Jennifer Wishon's report, followed by comments from Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

The previous law would have forced religious employers to cover birth control and emergency contraception like Plan B, causing an uproar with several Catholic groups and other religious organizations.

The revamped policy will instead demand that insurance companies be directly responsible for providing free contraception -- a change that only shifts financial responsibility.

Women will still have access to birth control without co-pays or premiums regardless of where they work. The policy shift still has opponents concerned.

While House officials say insurance companies save money by preventing unplanned pregnancy, making free contraception cost neutral.

The president said 99 percent of women use contraception at some point in their lives, but many struggle to afford it.

"In addition to family planning, doctors often prescribe contraception as a way to reduce the risks of ovarian and other cancers, and treat a variety of different ailments," he said.

As "a citizen and a Christian" Obama added that he cherishes religious liberty.

The president said he's been involved in addressing concerns of Catholic bishops and others for some time, but asked the Department of Health and Human Services to speed up the process to find a solution as controversy surrounding the rule snowballed.

"This is an issue where people of goodwill on both sides of the debate have been sorting through some very complicated questions to find a solution that works for everyone," the president said.

But the controversy isn't over.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins issued this response to the birth control policy change.

While some liberal Catholic groups have said their concerns have been alleviated, more conservative critics of the president's proposal call it "a wolf in sheep's clothing."

"The so-called new policy is the discredited old policy, dressed up to look like something else," Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said in a statement after Obama's comments.

"It remains a serious violation of religious freedom. Only the most naïve or gullible would accept this as a change in policy," he continued, adding that "today's announcement is a political manipulation."

*Published Feb. 10, 2012.

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Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.