KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Catholics Choosing Sides In Contraception Battle As Bishops Lead Fight Against Administration

The New York Times: Bishops Were Prepared For Battle Over Birth Control Coverage
When after much internal debate the Obama administration finally announced its decision to require religiously affiliated hospitals and universities to cover birth control in their insurance plans, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops were fully prepared for battle. Seven months earlier, they had started laying the groundwork ... the birth control mandate, issued on Jan. 20, was their Pearl Harbor. ... The conflict puts not just the White House, but also the bishops to the test. Will their flock follow their lead? (Goodstein, 2/9).

NPR: Catholics Split Over Obama Contraceptive Order
The conflict between the Catholic Bishops and the White House over contraceptive coverage has American Catholics choosing sides. Catholics narrowly support the White House position in polls. There are potential political consequences: In presidential elections, Catholics are swing voters. They supported Al Gore in 2000, President George W. Bush in '04 and President Obama in '08 (Gonyea, 2/10).

NPR: Bishops Stand Strong Against Birth Control Mandate
The Rev. Tom Reese of Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center says there's no reason for bishops to settle — they're are winning the public relations battle right now. ... According to Reese, they're under no pressure to compromise, particularly since they have a year before the rule takes effect. ... Reese says they also bristle at government pushing a religious entity to violate its beliefs (Bradley Hagerty, 2/9).

CBS: Report: Chicago Cardinal Joins Contraceptive Fight
The head of the Catholic church in the Chicago area has penned a letter, reportedly to be read out during church services this weekend, telling millions of American Catholics that church-affiliated employers "will not" comply with an Obama administration law requiring them to provide contraception as part of their health care plans for employees (2/10).

KQED: Interview: SF Archbishop George H. Niederauer on Obama Administration Contraceptive Rule
San Francisco Archbishop George H. Niederauer waded into the growing dispute between the Obama administration and U.S. Catholic leaders ... Q: California has a similar law in place, doesn't it? A: Twenty-eight states including California do. These states have found ways to let the church follow its tenets and still provide what is satisfactory health coverage according to the law. What bothers us quite a bit is that there were easy ways to get around this problem, but they decided to make the confrontation (Martin and Brooks, 2/9). 

MSNBC (Video): Catholic TV Network Sues US Over Birth Control Mandate
Thursday, EWTN — a Catholic television network carried on thousands of cable systems in more than 100 countries — filed suit in U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Ala.  ... "Under the HHS mandate, EWTN is being forced by the government to make a choice: Either we provide employees coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and violate our conscience or offer our employees and their families no health insurance coverage at all. Neither of those choices is acceptable," [Michael Warsaw, president of EWTN, which stands for Eternal Word Television Network] said. On at least one point, Warsaw is wrong, said Erin Shields, HHS's top spokeswoman (2/9).

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