KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Congressional Republicans Vow To Overturn Contraception Rule

Speaker John Boehner was among those who promised Wednesday to get rid of the administration's regulation that would require religious employers, such as hospitals, charities and universities, to cover free birth control for employees.

The New York Times: Birth Control Is Covered, And G.O.P. Vows A Fight
Congressional Republicans, seizing on the type of social issue that motivates and unifies their base, stepped forcefully Wednesday into the battle over an Obama administration rule requiring health insurance plans provided by Catholic universities and charities to offer free birth control to women, vowing to fight back with legislation to unravel the new policy (Steinhauer, 2/8).

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Legislators Take Aim At Contraceptive Rule
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), a Catholic, said in a floor speech that the requirement from the Department of Health and Human Services, part of the health-care overhaul, would force Catholic employers such as hospitals, schools and charities to "provide services they believe are immoral." "If the president does not reverse the 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," he said (Radnofsky and Meckler, 2/9).

Reuters: Obama Birth-Control Rule Stokes Election-Year Fight
Boehner said if the president refuses to rescind the measure, Congress will do so legislatively. But such a bill would have little chance of getting through a divided Congress. While Boehner may secure backing in the Republican-dominated House, he faces problems in the Senate, which is controlled by Obama's fellow Democrats (Ferraro and Spetalnick, 2/8).

Roll Call: House, Senate GOP Leaders Attack Obama Birth Control Rule
In a rare floor speech, the Ohio Republican — who is a practicing Catholic — pulled no punches: “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” (Stanton and Shiner, 2/8).

Modern Healthcare: GOP Vows Action On Birth-Control Rule
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said his panel would move quickly to advance legislation that would reverse an HHS decision requiring religious organizations to provide health coverage for contraceptives. The news from Upton's committee came not long after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the requirement an "unambiguous attack on religious freedom" and vowed on the House floor that the lower chamber would work to overturn the requirement if the Obama administration did not do so (Zigmond, 2/8).

The Associated Press: Analysis: Obama Contraceptive Mandate Has A Price
The Obama administration's new mandate that religious organizations pay for their workers' birth control has become a bludgeon for Republican culture warriors, as social issues have surged to the forefront in the presidential campaign. Conservatives who believe religious freedom always trumps gender equity in the public arena are outraged. But so too are Roman Catholic and evangelical moderates who have stuck with President Barack Obama, an abortion rights supporter, because of his 2008 pledge to reduce the abortion rate and find common ground among religious and secular Americans (Zoll, 2/9).

The Hill: Senate GOP Pushes To Shield Faith Groups From Contraception Rule
Senate Republicans are pushing legislation to overturn the Obama administration’s decision that the health plans of faith-based organizations must cover contraception if they serve people of multiple religious backgrounds. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) are leading the effort. "This is about whether the government of the United States should have the power to go in and tell a faith-based organization that they have to pay for something that they teach their members shouldn’t be doing," said Rubio (Bolton, 2/8).

San Francisco Chronicle: Bay Area Catholic Clerics Join Contraception Fray
San Francisco's Catholic archbishop has jumped into the latest national culture war, blasting the Obama administration's controversial requirement that employers -- including Catholic hospitals, universities and institutions -- provide birth control and other contraceptive services as part of their health care insurance plans. While the rule is not scheduled to take effect fully until August 2013, that isn't stopping partisans from leaping into battle positions in this election year. The issue is reopening the nation's cultural divide at time when voters care most about the perilous economy (Garofoli, 2/9).

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