KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

The U.S. Debates The Contraception Rule

A selection of opinions and editorials on the controversy surrounding the administration's regulation mandating insurance coverage for women of birth control.

Los Angeles Times: Contraception and Women's Rights — It's Still A Man's World
The Roman Catholic Church is dominated by men. So, for that matter, is Islam. And so are a number of Christian churches — the Mormon Church, for example. Which is why we find ourselves, in the 21st century, with these faiths — and the men who run them — dictating to women on that most vital issue: the health of their own bodies (2/10).  

The Washington Post: War On Birth Control
There is no constitutional infirmity in requiring religious institutions to follow the same insurance and labor regulations as other employers. ... New York, whose Catholic archbishop has railed so vehemently against the administration on this issue, already lives under the rule he decries — it's state law (Rachel Maddow, 2/10).

NPR: Contraception, Abortion: A Reminder That It's Not Just The Economy, Stupid
Still, one can't help but think that in the end, this is less about contraception and religious teachings and more about what some inside the GOP see as a winning issue, one that paints Obama as hostile to religion and religious freedom. ... One unanswered question is whether Catholics, who don't normally vote as a bloc, will see this as an issue to get excited about. The guess here is no (Ken Rudin, 2/13).

The Washington Post: Obama's Contraception Fig Leaf
 One big gap in the administration’s plan involves how to treat religiously affiliated institutions that are self-insured. In those situations, the employer pays an insurance company to administer the plan but bears the cost of medical care directly. The administration’s approach does not necessarily solve the problem for such entities (Ruth Marcus, 2/10).

The Washington Post: President Obama’s Win-Win Reversal On Contraception
It’s unfortunate that the White House, which was fully aware of the strong feelings on both sides of the issue, failed to reach this resolution before the outcry. That is especially true because one fallout from the episode has been ill-advised calls to provide protections to non-religious employers as well as to religious institutions. ... It would be impossible to administer. But it is part of the unfortunate whirlwind that the administration helped sow (2/10).

The New York Times: The Freedom to Choose Birth Control
 In response to a phony crisis over "religious liberty" engendered by the right, President Obama seems to have stood his ground on an essential principle — free access to birth control for any woman. That access, along with the ability to receive family planning and preventive health services, was at the foundation of health care reform. ... If a religious body does not like a public policy that affects its members, it is free to try to change it, but it cannot simply opt out of society or claim a special exemption from the law (2/10).

Fox News: Obama Birth Control Policy Shift And The Power Of The Pill
The issue is not whether contraception is available. The issue is who pays. ... This is not a controversy that will go gently into that good night. Tweaking the language of the dictate will not close the matter. And this is not about the pill. ... ObamaCare and all the forming tentacles of its coercive programs must be overturned to protect the freedoms we all rely on (Kristi Stone Hamrick, 2/10).

The New York Times: Beyond Pelvic Politics
The debates about pelvic politics over the last week sometimes had a patronizing tone, as if birth control amounted to a chivalrous handout to women of dubious morals. On the contrary, few areas have more impact on more people than birth control — and few are more central to efforts to chip away at poverty (Nicholas D. Kristof, 2/11).

The Washington Post: Contraception And The Cost Of Culture Wars
Some conservative Catholics still insist that the relief from regulation that Obama offered is not enough. I hope they reconsider, especially since the Catholic service providers most affected by the revised rule welcomed it (E.J. Dionne, 2/12).

The Wall Street Journal: Immaculate Contraception
Here's a conundrum: The White House wants to impose its birth-control ideology on all Americans, including those for whom sponsoring or subsidizing such services violates their moral conscience. The White House also wants to avoid a political backlash from this blow to religious freedom. These goals are irreconcilable.

USA Today: Obama's Contraception Retreat Is Not Enough
President Obama beat a smart, strategic retreat Friday on the combustible issue of which employers should be required to offer contraceptive services to their employees. Obama did what he should have done in the first place: broaden the religious exemptions to the administration's birth control mandate to cover Catholic institutions such as universities, hospitals and charities, not just churches. ... The policy shift is getting mixed reviews from Catholic organizations, and it leaves some knotty questions to be resolved (2/12).

Denver Post: Compromise Confuses The Issue
The Obama administration's newest "compromise" on the issue of religious freedom and ObamaCare is little more than a political gimmick designed to distract from what is at stake. Despite efforts to confuse the issue, the bottom line is the President's newly-revised mandate still tramples upon religious freedom (Rep. Doug Lamborn, 2/12).

Denver Post: A Compromise On Contraception
You can call President Obama's very public retreat on contraception and religious rights a compromise or a surrender. But, however you frame it, the important thing is that the president ended up doing the right thing. The place where religious freedoms and reproductive rights meet is often a political and constitutional minefield. And Obama stepped right into the middle of it last summer in announcing rules that employer-provided health insurance plans must include free birth control (2/11).

Arizona Republic: Feds Back Off From Church
It has become clear that the president did not anticipate the firestorm of outrage his decision to force contraception coverage would generate. As an ardent supporter of women's right to abortion and birth control — and, we must suppose, as a Protestant who is perhaps unfamiliar with the Catholic Church's unflinching commitment to the defense of human life — Obama's blinders on the issue may be understandable. A wee bit, at least. But as professional politician and scholar of the U.S. Constitution, to boot ... well, how he missed this oncoming train is a wonder (2/11).

The Seattle Times: The Role Of Faith In Health Care Delivery
It's one thing to say that because you're using private funds, you don't have to provide services that violate religious conscience. It's another to accept public money in a market situation where "customers" don't have free choice, and make that same assertion. In a perfect world, patients would have full knowledge of whether the system they choose is compatible with their religious experience and beliefs. But in practice, this doesn't happen (Monica Harrington, Deborah Oyer, and Kathy Reim, 2/10).

Boston Globe: Playing With Women’s Rights
Well, that was rather a dazzling piece of political theater. Last week’s brouhaha over insurance coverage for contraceptives should be up for some Tony Awards. What a production, complete with spectacular acting, and serious scenery-chewing. And the sets! How did they recreate the 1960s so convincingly? There was even that thrilling gun-going-off-in-the-third-act thing, but luckily nobody was seriously hurt: The president just grazed his own foot (Yvonne Abraham, 2/12).

Boston Globe: The 'Mad Men' Era Of Contraception
The "Mad Men" era is great TV. But who — besides Catholic bishops, Republican presidential candidates and, maybe, Joe Biden — wants to go back to it in real life? The Catholic Church and GOP turned back the clock when they attacked President Obama’s plan to require church-run hospitals and universities to offer employees health insurance that covers contraceptives. It was Ike and Mamie Eisenhower time, stretching forward into the era of an intern-bedding JFK, when entitled men kept women in their place and birth control out of their reach (Joan Vennochi, 2/12).

San Jose Mercury News: Women's Health Takes Another Political Hit
Obama's so-called compromise with the bishops announced Friday is absurd. He's pretending that nonprofit employees can go to their insurance companies and pick up contraceptives "for free." … The new policy also opens the door for any business operator who opposes contraception — or any other health service — for religious reasons to seek a similar exemption. It invites chaos. It is hypocritical for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to criticize the Obama administration for imposing its will on the church when the church is trying to impose its will on its employees, many of whom are not Catholic (2/10).

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