Boehner vows Congress will reverse Obama birth control policy
Congress enters the church-state fray over the Obama policy on birth control, with House Speaker John Boehner saying Wednesday that lawmakers will reverse it if the White House doesn't.
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In a letter to the president, Sen. Bob Casey (D) of Pennsylvania, who is up for reelection in November, called on Mr. Obama to reverse his decision. Religiously affiliated organizations such as hospitals and universities should not be required to purchase insurance policies that “violate their religious and moral conviction,” he wrote.Skip to next paragraph
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Some Democratic women are publicly backing the White House, saying the mandate will protect poor women. Catholic hospitals and charities receive government funds and tax benefits and are “woven into the fabric of our broader society,” wrote Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Patty Murray of Washington, and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, in an op-ed in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal.
A narrow religious exemption from the requirement – but one that excludes Catholic-affiliated hospitals – will help millions of women “get the affordable care they need,” they added.
Cost is a barrier for African-American and Latina women to access family planning services, Dr. Mark Hathaway, director of obstetric/gynecological outreach services at Washington Hospital Center, testified before a House panel on Nov. 2.
“Any attempts to broaden exemptions to that coverage requirement would mean leaving in place insurmountable obstacles to contraceptive services for far too many women,” he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which defends the new mandate, says the rules do not violate religious beliefs. Clergy and church members can still practice their religion as they see fit, says Laura Murphy, director of the legislative office of the ACLU in Washington. "The fundamental promise of religious liberty in this country doesn’t create a right to impose those views on others,” including “denying critical health care,” said the ACLU in a statement on its website.
Meanwhile, GOP presidential contenders have also picked up the issue. Fresh off three surprise wins in caucuses Tuesday, Rick Santorum charged the president with rolling over the First Amendment and imposing “his secular values on the people of this country.”
“Freedom is at stake in this election,” Mr. Santorum said Tuesday, addressing supporters in St. Charles, Mo., after winning a nonbinding state primary.
Mitt Romney also criticized the policy, but the White House shot back. “This is ironic that Mitt Romney is … criticizing the president for pursuing a policy that’s virtually identical to the one that was in place when he was governor of Massachusetts,” said Mr. Carney at Wednesday’s White House briefing.
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