Thursday, February 9, 2012

Why White House sees political opportunity in the contraception battle

at 09:30 AM ET, 02/08/2012

(Public Religion Research Institute)
The controversy over the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation’s decision to eliminate funding to Planned Parenthood—and subsequent reversal— continues. Catholic leaders are blasting the health reform requirement that insurance plans to cover contraceptives. Commentator Mark Shields joined other liberals in blasting the provision, saying it could have “cataclysmic” fallout for President Obama come November.
Numerous pundits have predicted that the requirement —and its narrow exemption for churches — will be a political liability for Obama. But where Shields sees “cataclysmic” fallout, the White House sees something quite different: a chance to widen the reproductive health debate beyond abortion to issues like contraceptives, winning over key demographics of independent voters in the process.
And that could explain why the White House, alongside the Obama campaign, has engaged eagerly on the issues. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in USA Today earlier this week, praising the new provision. The Obama campaign meanwhile hasn’t been shy either, drawing up an infographic praising the new regulation. While there are some signs of a potential compromise for religious groups, the White House has made it pretty clear it plans to stand firm behind the current regulation.
But while Catholic leadership has blasted the new regulation, polls show that a majority of Catholics are actually more supportive of the provision than the rest of the country. A poll out Tuesday from the Public Religion Research Institute finds 52 percent of Catholic voters agreed with the statement, “employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost.” That’s pretty much in line with overall support for the provision, which hovers at 55 percent - likely because Catholics use contraceptives at rates similar to the rest of Americans.
A majority of Catholics - 52 percent - also agree with the Obama administration’s decision to not exempt religious hospitals and universities from the provision. “Outside the political punditry, most Catholics agree with the administration on the issue,” says one Obama campaign official, explaining the view that this could be a political win.
And a lot of this likely isn’t about Catholic voters at all.
Rather, it may well be about the demographics that are most supportive of this particular health reform provision: young voters and women. In the PRRI poll, both groups register support above 60 percent for the provision.
Those two demographics are important here for a key reason: they were crucial to Obama’s victory in 2008. Third Way crunched the numbers earlier this month and found that the “Obama Independents” — the swing group that proved crucial to his 2008 victory — are, as Ryan Lizza put it, “disproportionately young, female and secular.”
“In 2012, Independents are likely to comprise the highest proportion of the electorate since 1976, and winning them will be crucial to victory,” write Third Way’s Michelle Diggles and Lanae Erickson. “If President Obama woos the vast majority [of his independent voters] back, he can be reelected.”
These voters have tended to be difficult for abortion rights supporters to engage on reproductive health issues like abortion. Research from NARAL Pro-Choice America, which I wrote about last weekend, found a significant “intensity gap” there, with abortion rights supporters much less likely to see it as a crucial voting issue than their anti-abortion counterparts.
But when the conversation moves away from abortion to contraceptives - as it has this week - the intensity gap flips: A much larger segment of voters are willing to penalize a legislator who votes to defund family planning. That became apparent in polling that Democratic firm Lake Research Partners did earlier this year, which found that 40 percent of voters would be less likely to support a member of Congress who votes to defund family-planning programs. Just 22 percent would be more likely to support such a lawmaker.
That particular poll isn’t a perfect analogy for the current debate about the contraception mandate. But it speaks to something I’ve heard a lot in recent interviews with abortion right supporters: When the reproductive health debate moves away from abortion, it becomes easier to message and connect with voters. Unlike abortion rights, an issue that tends to split voters, most polls on contraceptives and birth control tend to find Americans solidly in support. That Lake Research poll I mentioned earlier found that 84 percent of Americans view family planning, including contraceptives, as basic health care.
Young voters and women were key demographics for Obama in 2008. By hitting hard on a policy they strongly support, and moving the conversation away from abortion politics, the campaign may have found a new way to reach them.

Super PAC supporting Ron Paul is operated by a 9/11 'truther'

Revolution PAC
Gary Franchi has warned of a 9/11 cover-up, FEMA concentration camps and the New World Order.
As Libertarian Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul looks for a state he can win, some of his supporters have turned to a new theme: voting fraud.
A Super PAC supporting Paul has pledged to monitor the vote in all the remaining states, using an army of exit pollsters to fight what it calls results that are "outrageous, unacceptable and patently un-American." The group, called Revolution PAC, has spent half a million dollars supporting Paul with videos, webcasts, online ads, direct mail, billboards and radio ads in primary and caucus states.
We first noticed Revolution PAC last week, when it told the Federal Election Commission that it couldn't meet the deadline to identify its donors, because of an error by its bank. Now Revolution PAC has filed its report.
As with many other so-called "independent" Super PACs, which can receive unlimited donations outside the normal rules of campaign finance, the pro-Paul group is operated by people with close ties to the candidate. The group's advisory board members include Penny Langford Freeman, Paul's political director from 1998 to 2007, and Joe Becker, chief legal counsel for Ron Paul 2008.
The leader of the group, its founder, chairman and treasurer, is Gary Franchi, a promoter of conspiracy theories and sophisticated social-media entrepreneur in the resurgent movement known as the Patriots.
The 34-year-old political activist from the Chicago suburbs told that his goal is a "non-violent intellectual revolution, which results in a full restoration of the federal Constitution."
Online videos produced by Franchi, and online interviews with him, add specifics:
  • Franchi has supported the 9/11 Truth Movement, which supports the idea that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were an inside job to create a pretext for a reduction in American liberty, or at least involved a cover-up, with the World Trade Center brought down by a planned U.S. demolition, instead of terrorist-controlled airplanes. Franchi founded the Lone Lantern Society (a reference to Paul Revere indicating that foreign enemies are on American soil). The group supports "the birth of freedom and the death of the New World Order," a secretive elite that is supposedly trying to set up a world government. Lone Lantern has held street demonstrations on the 11th of every month in Chicago and elsewhere, demanding an investigation of 9/11. In New Hampshire in 2008, a video shows Franchi asking Tom Ridge, the former secretary of Homeland Security, who was campaigning for Sen. John McCain, whether Ridge would support an investigation of the "controlled demolition" of the World Trade Center. Ridge was having none of it, saying, "I just don't buy into that. That's a conspiracy theory that has no basis in fact. It's almost out of the Twilight Zone."
  • According to a 2010 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks domestic fringe groups, "Gary Franchi is one of the leading promoters of a resurgent Patriot conspiracy theory that alleges the government is creating concentration camps for U.S. citizens." In 2009 he co-wrote and co-produced the video "Camp FEMA: American Lockdown," which claims that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is creating concentration camps on air bases and in vacant buildings to house political dissenters when the federal government proclaims martial law. "Your church may have already signed a deal with the devil," reads promotional material for the film. The film questions whether Census data will be used to round up Americans. Clips from Franchi's film on YouTube show Hitler youth marching while the narrator ominously describes President Obama's plans to expand AmeriCorps and the USA Freedom Corps, the volunteer initiative launched by the Bush administration after 9/11.
  • Franchi operates Restore the Republic, which opposes the Federal Reserve, the IRS and the income tax, decries the control of the economy by the Rockefellers and the "banking cartel," and warns of government plans to plant RFID microchips into all Americans. The group was founded by Franchi and filmmaker and Libertarian presidential candidate Aaron Russo, and has been operated by Franchi since Russo's death from cancer in 2007. RTR shares an address with Revolution PAC in Northbrook, Ill. The group, which describes itself as a social media platform for like-minded individuals, promotes Russo's film, "America: Freedom to Fascism," in which Ron Paul declares, "If that's the definition of a police state — that you can't do anything unless the government gives you permission —we're well on our way." In a YouTube video interview with Franchi in 2008, Paul credited the Russo video with bringing a lot of people to his presidential campaign. The group has also placed billboards fueling the bogus claim that Obama is not an American citizen, asking, "Where's the REAL birth certificate?"

Gary Franchi's film "Camp FEMA: American Lockdown" shows Hitler youth marching while the narrator ominously describes President Obama's plans to expand AmeriCorps and the USA Freedom Corps, the volunteer initiative launched by the Bush administration after 9/11. 

Franchi has been a frequent guest of Texas talk show host Alex Jones, who warns about the New World Order on his and other websites. In a videotaped interview with Jones, Franchi explained that at 17 he began to read about "the committee of 300, the Club of Rome, the Council of Foreign Relations," and other groups of the New World Order.
He said his parents, thinking he was mentally ill, had him heavily medicated for 10 years. But he continued his reading, particularly about the implantation of RFID microchips by government, and formed the Lone Lantern Society to tell people that "the enemies are here."
"It's the truth, it's the message, that's piercing the darkness," Franchi told Jones. "Anything that's done in darkness, anything that is hidden in secret will be revealed. It's having an impact. People are waking up by the millions, Alex, by the millions! The New World Order does not stand a chance."


Franchi agreed to answer questions from, but only by email.
He said labels are distracting, and the description of him by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "conspiracy theorist" is "derogatory and inflammatory language."
In regard to Sept. 11, he said his view is that "I personally, alongside Russo, 9/11 Family members, and thousands of architects and engineers do advocate for a more thorough investigation, preferably free from the Executive Privilege invoked during the Bush Administration."
Of Paul, Franchi said, "Ron Paul is my candidate because he understands what is affecting this nation, i.e. the Federal Reserve, an unsustainable foreign policy, and the loss of civil liberties under the guise of security."

Orlin Wagner / AP
Ron Paul has credited Franchi for bringing in more supporters for his presidential campaign.

Paul has had a vague and uncertain connection with fringe views and conspiracy peddlers for decades. In several cases he has welcomed their support, neither repudiating their views nor explicitly endorsing them.
For example, in 2004 Paul was asked by a student and 9/11 skeptic, "We've heard that you have questioned the government's official account." Paul replied, "Well, I never automatically trust anything the government does when they do an investigation because too often I think there’s an area that the government covered up, whether it’s the Kennedy assassination or whatever."
When asked if that meant that he wanted an additional investigation, he added, "I think we have to keep pushing for it. And like you and others, we see the investigations that have been done so far as more or less cover-up and no real explanation of what went on."
The year-end accounting to the FEC by Revolution PAC shows that it brought in $518,201 during the second half of 2011, since its founding last summer, and spent $434,432 supporting Paul, with $83,770 in cash on hand at the end of the year.
These amounts are small compared with the official Paul campaign, which raised $26 million (second to Romney among Republican candidates) by year end, and another pro-Paul Super PAC, Endorse Liberty, which spent $3.3 million. A third pro-Paul Super Pac, Santa Rita, spent $320,000.
Larger donors to the Revolution PAC include Texas rancher Margaret Bowman, who gave $50,000; and Scott Banister, an early investor in PayPal, who gave $10,000. Another $10,000 came from Judy Kay Gray, of Buffalo Grove, Ill., who paid $2.5 million to settle a false advertising claim by the Federal Trade Commission in 2008 regarding her company, North American Herb and Spice, and its claims that its oregano oil treated cold and flu.
Large donors received a free book signed by Thomas Woods, an author and member of the Revolution PAC advisory board. Woods is a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Mises is one of the members of the Austrian School of Economics, whose ideas have influenced Paul, such as his call for a return to a gold standard. The PAC paid Woods $1,200 to sign his books for donors.

Gary Franchi on his webcast Reality Report.

The Revolution PAC paid $41,487 to Franchi or his group Restore the Republic, including $3,000 a month in management fees, $1,766 a month in rent at their shared office in Northbrook, Ill., and a 10 percent commission on large financial donations solicited. Franchi, the group's chairman and treasurer, said in response to questions that these are reasonable charges, much lower than is common, and that he has provided more support to the PAC than it has paid to him, considering the value of his in-kind donations of his time and services.
"I am personally not a representative for Dr. Paul nor should my beliefs be construed to be his," Franchi told "Nor am I sure if Ron Paul believes in all the issues that concern me, however I do know I stand with him on the constitutional issues he continues to highlight throughout this election cycle and as he has done for over 20 years. That is why I formed Revolution PAC and produce content that I feel highlight his principled consistency and advocacy of fidelity to the Constitution."
Should Ron Paul accept support from Revolution PAC? Post your comment below.

The Poll: Catholic hospitals and birth control

by LIBN Staff
Published: February 9, 2012

The Obama administration, as part of its health-care reform initiative, is set to require employer-provided group health insurance to cover preventive health services, including prescription contraception.
Catholic hospitals, universities and charities are included in this mandate, causing an uproar among Republican Party leaders.
On Long Island, the requirement would affect, among other groups, Catholic Health Services of Long Island, which runs six hospitals in Nassau and Suffolk counties, including St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre, St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown and St. Joseph Hospital in Bethpage.

Click view results

Should Catholic hospitals be required to offer free birth control and morning-after pills in their health-care packages?

Recent Polls Show Majority Of Catholics Support Insurance Plans That Cover Contraception ...

Public Religion Research Institute: "Majority Of Catholics Think Employers Should Be Required To Provide Health Care Plans That Cover Birth Control At No Cost." 

A poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) on February 7 found that "[r]oughly 6-in-10 Catholics (58%) believe that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception." From PRRI:
Majority Support Requirement that Employer Health Care Plans Include Contraception Coverage
  • A majority (55%) of Americans agree that "employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost." Four-in-ten (40%) disagree with this requirement.
  • There are major religious, generational and political divisions:
    • Roughly 6-in-10 Catholics (58%) believe that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception.
    • Among Catholic voters, support for this requirement is slightly lower at 52%.
    • Only half (50%) of white Catholics support this requirement, compared to 47% who oppose it.
  • Among other religious Americans, 61% of religiously unaffiliated Americans believe that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception, compared to only half (50%) of white mainline Protestants and less than 4-in-10 (38%) white evangelical Protestants.

The news release about the poll included the following graph:
prri CHART
[PRRI, 2/7/12]

PRRI: "Majority Of Catholics (52%) Say That Religiously Affiliated Colleges And Hospitals Should Have To Provide Coverage That Includes Contraception." From PRRI's press release:
  • Nearly half (49%) of Americans say that religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception or birth control at no cost. Forty-six percent say they should not have to provide this type of coverage.
  • A majority of Catholics (52%) say that religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should have to provide coverage that includes contraception.
  • Among Catholic voters, however, only 45% support this requirement, while 52% oppose it.
  • Only about 4-in-10 (41%) white Catholics support this requirement, compared to 58% who oppose it. [PRRI, 2/7/12]
Public Policy Polling: "A 53 Percent Majority Of Catholic Voters" Support "Providing Women With Prescription Birth Control Without A Co-Pay." A Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey released February 7 found that "a 53 percent majority of Catholic voters" support providing birth control to women without a co-pay, and a 53 percent majority also agreed with the sentiment that "women employed by Catholic hospitals and universities should have the same rights to contraceptive coverage as other women." From PPP:
A solid 56 percent majority of voters support the decision to require health plans to cover prescription birth control with no additional out-of-pocket fees, while only 37 percent are opposed. It's particularly noteworthy that pivotal independent voters support this benefit by a 55/36 margin; in fact, a majority of voters in every racial, age, and religious category that we track express support. In particular, a 53 percent majority of Catholic voters, who were oversampled as part of this poll, favor the benefit, including fully 62 percent of Catholics who identify themselves as independents.
- A similarly strong majority (57 percent) of voters think that women employed by Catholic hospitals and universities should have the same rights to contraceptive coverage as other women, while only 39 percent say these institutions should be exempted from the requirement that health plans cover prescription birth control with no additional out-of-pocket costs because contraception runs counter to Catholic teachings. Notably, a 53 percent majority of Catholics agree with this sentiment, including 60 percent of independents. [PPP, 2/7/12, via Planned Parenthood, emphasis original]

... As Have Past Polls

Catholics For Choice Poll Found 63 Percent Of American Catholics Support Coverage For "Contraception, Such As Birth Control Pills." According to a 2009 poll conducted for Catholics for Choice, 63 percent of American Catholics said that "health insurance policies -- whether they are private or government -- should cover ... contraception, such as birth control pills."
Health insurance - contraception
[Belden Russonello & Stewart, September 2009]

And Several Catholic Groups Found A "Silver Lining" In HHS Rule

Catholic United's Executive Director: "There Is A Silver Lining In Today's Ruling. Increased Access To Contraceptive Services Will Dramatically Reduce The Abortion Rate In America." 

 James Salt, executive director of the group Catholics United, issued this statement in response to the contraception ruling:
Although we recognize the authority of Catholic teaching on the issue of contraception, we also acknowledge that there is a silver lining in today's ruling. Increased access to contraceptive services will dramatically reduce the abortion rate in America. Reducing abortion should be a goal recognized by both sides of this highly polarized debate. Furthermore, we look forward to working with the administration in finding a win-win solution that will both meet the medical needs of women while protecting the religious liberty of Catholic institutions. [Catholics United, 1/20/12]
Catholic Democrats President Whelan: "These New Regulations ... Will Certainly Help Reduce The Number Of Unintended Pregnancies" And "Decrease The Incidence Of Abortion." Dr. Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats, issued a statement on the Department of Health and Human Services ruling that noted, "These new regulations, providing for greater access to contraception, will certainly help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies across the country, and correspondingly are likely to further decrease the incidence of abortion." From Whelan's statement:
As a physician and pediatric specialist, I know that news of the HHS regulations today means that more women will have access to the kind of health care that has been denied to millions over the years because of the high cost. Over 50% of girls and women who use contraceptives take them for reasons other than the prevention of pregnancy. Since the beginning of his first presidential campaign in 2007, President Obama has emphasized the importance of preventing unintended pregnancy as the most moral approach to solving the abortion problem. These new regulations, providing for greater access to contraception, will certainly help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies across the country, and correspondingly are likely to further decrease the incidence of abortion.  [Catholic Democrats, accessed 1/26/12]

Coburn: Debate over birth-control rule ‘blown out of proportion’

By Jonathan Easley - 02/09/12 08:56 AM ET

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said conservatives claiming the Obama administration is waging a war on religious liberty because of its policy mandating healthcare coverage for contraception are blowing the matter “out of proportion.”
The Catholic Church and some on the right are furious with the administration over the policy, which would require some religiously affiliated hospitals to cover birth control in their healthcare plans.
While Coburn strongly disagrees with the policy, speaking Thursday on MSNBC he indicated that he thought the rhetoric that has sprung up around the issue was overheated.“This is blown out of proportion,” he said. “It is an important point in terms of religious liberty, but it’s a consequence of having too big of a government.”
Coburn acknowledged that the program has “professed benefits,” but said “in the long run we all lose when the government is that involved in our life.”
“There’s nothing wrong with their motivation — they’re well-meaning people,” he said. “But the consequence is that we lose liberty.”
In recent days, some on the right — including the GOP presidential candidates — have hammered the president for being “hostile” to “people of faith.”
Coburn framed the issue as a larger debate over the role of government that affects faith tangentially.
“We’re so far beyond the effectiveness of our government to implement things and when we try to do good things, the costs and consequences of them outweigh what we’re trying to do that’s good.”

Sen. Hatch: Obama allied with 'most radical of pro-abortion advocates'Sen. Hatch: Obama allied with 'most radical of pro-abortion advocates'

Gov. O'Malley: White House birth control order 'not about abortion'Gov. O'Malley: White House birth control order 'not about abortion'

Obama Administration Defends Contraception Rule Amid Mounting Criticism

Obama Contraception Rule
First Posted: 02/ 8/2012 9:45 am Updated: 02/ 8/2012 10:39 am 

By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON--The Obama administration is willing to work with Catholic universities, hospitals and other church-affiliated employers to implement a new policy that requires health insurers to offer birth control coverage, a top adviser to the president's re-election campaign said on Tuesday.
David Axelrod, a senior campaign adviser to President Barack Obama, said the administration had heard the Roman Catholic Church's concerns and never intended to "abridge anyone's religious freedom."
But he gave no sign that the administration would reverse course under intensifying pressure from church leaders and political heat from Republican presidential candidates.
"This is an important issue. It's important for millions of women across this country. We want to resolve it in an appropriate way, and we're going to do that," Axelrod said in remarks on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.
White House spokesman Jay Carney also sought to diffuse criticism from church leaders, telling reporters later on Tuesday the administration would work with religious organizations "to see if the implementation of the policy can be done in a way that allays some of those concerns."
U.S. Catholic bishops have slammed the Obama administration for a regulation finalized on January 20 that would require health insurance to include birth control and other preventative health services for women. The leaders contend the policy infringes on religious liberty because the church does not condone birth control of any kind.
Over the weekend, Catholic clergy across the country called for congregations to pressure Obama to back down.
"To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable," said Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a statement last month.
Jim Towey, president of Ave Maria University in Florida, who also served in the administration of President George W. Bush, said on Tuesday he would fight the provision using "all lawful means at our disposal."
"Our non-Catholic employees and students understand fully that the University must adhere to Catholic teaching and they do not expect us to provide such services," he said in a statement.


The controversy centers on a provision in the 2010 healthcare bill which requires health insurance to cover basic preventative services for women. An advisory group, the Institute of Medicine, had recommended covering a fuller range of contraceptive services to help prevent unwanted pregnancies.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius adopted the institute's recommendation but included an exemption for churches, although not related religious organizations such as hospitals.
Twenty-eight U.S. states already require health insurers to cover contraception.
The issue quickly took on political dimensions, with Republican presidential contenders criticizing the administration for violating religious liberties. Obama is seeking re-election in what many see as a referendum on his performance during the last three years.
Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney, in Colorado on Tuesday, called the requirement an "assault on religion."
Republican rival Rick Santorum, who is Catholic, called the White House's comments "ridiculous" while speaking in Colorado on Monday. Rival Newt Gingrich, also a Catholic, has also declared the policy a war on religious freedom.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, whose name has surfaced as a possible Republican vice presidential candidate, has introduced a bill to further expand the exemption for religious employers.
On Capitol Hill, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley, urged the Obama administration to rescind the provision.
"As currently written, this mandate will result in litigation that could be avoided if HHS issued a regulation that showed greater respect for religious freedom," Grassley said in a letter to Sebelius.
In remarks on the Senate Floor, Senator Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, said the debate was off in the wrong direction. "For the first time in a long time, our nation is talking about women's health, ... but unfortunately, too much of it isn't really about women's health. It is politics disguised as women's health," Mikulski said.


Just how religious-based organizations could implement the rule to meet the Obama administration's criteria while still holding fast to their core beliefs remains to be seen.
Carney offered no details but said the White House would discuss possible avenues over the next 18 months.
Jennifer Duffy, senior political analyst for The Cook Political Report, said neither side was likely to back down in the run-up to the election.
"I don't think the bishops have any intention of letting this fade and, especially if their position is intractable, then it's a fight," she said. "It becomes a staring contest."
Emergency contraception, also known as the "morning after pill" and seen by many conservatives as akin to abortion, for the most part would not fall under the rule since it is already available without a prescription to those 17 and older.
Women's rights groups and other contraception supporters, who were disappointed last year when the Obama administration rejected a push to make emergency contraception more widely available, had feared Obama might widen the exemption.
Susan Wood, a health professor at George Washington University's Jacobs Institute of Women's Health who backs birth control, said religious groups should have no more control over what employees do with their insurance than with their salaries.
"This is an employee benefit issue. This is not the Catholic Church having to provide a service directly. No Catholic hospital is going to be required to write a prescription or provide a pack of pills."
Two polls released by Planned Parenthood, which provides birth control and reproductive services, showed the majority of voters, including Catholics, support contraceptive coverage.
(Reporting By Susan Heavey; additional reporting by Steve Holland in Colorado, Laura MacInnis in Washington and Greg McCune in Chicago; Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson, Eric Beech and Todd Eastham)

John Boehner Demands Reversal Of New Birth Control Rule (UPDATE)

Who here believes that this is political, religious or about women's rights. Because in 28 states they have this ruling with exempts for churches and religious affiliates. Eight states do not have exempts for even churches. Republicans are dead set on taking away basic rights that women have for birth control, cancer screening, pap smear, family planning, and yes abortion.  What are we, women or are we being returned to second class citizens, with men telling us what we can or can not do with our own bodies. We have basic health rights that should be guaranteed under the new health care reform act.

John Boehner Birth Control
First Posted: 02/ 8/2012 12:58 pm Updated: 02/ 8/2012 2:14 pm

WASHINGTON -- In a rare floor speech Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) demanded that the Obama administration reverse its new rule requiring most employers' insurance plans to cover birth control with no co-pay for employees. Boehner pledged to take legislative action if the administration refuses to reverse.
Echoing the argument of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, one of the most powerful lobbying groups on the issue of birth control, Boehner called the coverage mandate "an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country" because it includes religiously affiliated organizations, such as schools and hospitals.
“In imposing this requirement, the federal government is violating a First Amendment right that has stood for more than two centuries. And it is doing so in a manner that affects millions of Americans and harms some of our nation's most vital institutions," Boehner said. "If the president does not reverse the [Health and Human Services] Department’s attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must."

Boehner said the House Energy and Commerce Committee is taking the lead on the matter "through appropriate legislative channels."
The willingness of the House Republican leadership to jump into the contraception debate underscores how tempting a quick political victory can be, even in light of the leadership's pledge to remain focused on jobs.
As for the Senate Republican leadership, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said they are in talks about a legislative response to President Barack Obama's decision. He noted that a handful of GOP senators have already put forward bills that would override the rule.
"We're discussing the appropriate response," McConnell told reporters Wednesday. "The three senators you've heard from are involved in those discussions. We'll let you know when we decide what approach we're going to take."
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who introduced a bill last week that would allow religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and other organizations that morally oppose contraception to refuse to cover it for their employees, said no decision has been made on the timing of bringing legislation to the floor. Asked if he sees any middle ground with the White House, he proposed letting individual churches choose whether to pay for contraception for their employees.
Under the administration's rule, churches and houses of worship are already exempt from the general requirement to provide birth control coverage.
Rubio noted that he and some other Republicans met with a White House official last week and they told the official the contraception decision was "a mistake." The official, whom Rubio didn't identify, responded by justifying the administration's decision.
"I think their mind-set then was different than it is today," Rubio said. "I continue to say that the best outcome here would be for the White House to do this" -- that is, reverse the decision.
A group of 23 Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders countered Boehner's argument, saying in a joint statement Wednesday that they stand with President Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in their decision to expand birth control coverage for women.
"We believe that women and men have the right to decide whether or not to apply the principles of their faith to family planning decisions, and to do so they must have access to services," the group said. "Hospitals and universities across the religious spectrum have an obligation to assure that individuals' conscience and decisions are respected and that their students and employees have access to this basic health care service. We invite other religious leaders to speak out with us for universal coverage of contraception."
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Wednesday that the administration hopes to "work with all these organizations to implement this policy in a way that is as sensitive to their concerns as possible," but added that the president is not backing down on this.
"Let's be clear," Carney said. "The president is committed to ensuring that women have access to contraception without paying any extra cost no matter where they work. Right now, we are focused on the implementation of this rule and doing what we said back on Jan. 20, when Secretary Sebelius announced it, which was work with those who have concerns to see if there is a way to implement this policy to ensure that woman everywhere have the same level of health care coverage and the same access to preventative services."
Jennifer Bendery contributed to this report.

The article has been updated to include Wednesday remarks from Sens. Mitch McConnell and Marco Rubio and White House press secretary Jay Carney.

Rev. Debra Haffner
Rev. Debra Haffner: Religious Leaders Support White House on Contraceptive Coverage

Today, I am pleased to be one of 23 national mainstream religious leaders who affirm the White House decision.

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