KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Sebelius At Georgetown Calls For ‘Conversation and Compromise’

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: Health Secretary Urges Contraception Compromise
U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in a speech at Georgetown University a few miles from the White House, praised the new U.S. healthcare law requiring coverage and called for "conversation and compromise." ... About 20 protesters lined a campus entrance amid beefed up security, and a heckler, who interrupted Sebelius by calling her a "baby killer," was led away by campus police (Heavey, 5/18).

The Hill: Sebelius Stays Away From Contraception Fight At Georgetown
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius didn't mention the controversy over the administration's contraception mandate during a Friday commencement speech at Georgetown University. ... Sebelius noted in her speech that public policy debates can be contentious and the conversations over difficult issues "can be painful." "But this is a strength of our country, not a weakness," said Sebelius. "In some countries around the world, it is much easier to make policy," she said. "The leader delivers an edict and it goes into effect. There’s no debate, no press, no criticism, no second guessing" (Viebeck, 5/18).

Kaiser Health News: Sebelius Tells Georgetown Students To Follow Their 'Own Moral Compass'
In her speech, Sebelius didn't directly address the ongoing controversy over the health law's birth control coverage rule and the opposition it has drawn from the highest ranks of the Catholic church, but she did describe the importance of graduates acting as leaders and following their "own moral compass" as they wade through contentious debates that might involve religion (Torres, 5/18).

CNN: Health Secretary Addresses Health Care, Religious Freedom In Protested Graduation Speech
In an anticipated and controversial address Friday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius delivered a speech that blended inspirational messages to graduates with a discussion of public policy's tough decisions, including health care and honoring religious freedom. ... The speech did not mention the controversy directly, but Sebelius did address faith in public life in a section of the speech devoted to John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president of the United States. "Kennedy was elected president on November 8, 1960," she said. "And more than 50 years later, that conversation, about the intersection of our nation's long tradition of religious freedom with policy decisions in the public square, continues" (Merica, 5/18).

Politico: Sebelius Quotes Kennedy: No Religious Test
Under fire for requiring employers to provide contraceptives to their employees, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Friday cited John F. Kennedy’s vision of America, "where no religious body" imposes its will on public officials. Sebelius was interrupted by a protester shouting about abortion within the first few minutes of her commencement address at the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute, a reminder of the emotional debate over the contraception rule that led up to her speech (Haberkorn, 5/18).

Religion News Service/The Washington Post: 'Exorcist' author, William Peter Blatty, To Sue Georgetown University In Catholic Court
The author who turned Georgetown University into a horror scene in "The Exorcist" plans to sue the school in church court, charging that his alma mater has strayed so far from church doctrine that it should no longer call itself Catholic. William Peter Blatty, who graduated from Georgetown in 1950, says the "last straw" was the university's speaking invitation to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (Burke, 5/18).

The Washington Post: Georgetown U., GWU Draw Commencement Controversies
Catholic leaders called the invitation inappropriate for a leading Jesuit university. They have criticized Sebelius for her role in helping to craft the 2010 health-care law, which requires employers to cover the cost of contraceptive coverage even if it runs counter to their religious beliefs. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, called the invitation "shocking," and thousands signed an online petition started by a conservative Catholic think tank. Georgetown President John J. DeGioia defended the invitation, saying that "the secretary's presence on our campus should not be viewed as an endorsement of her views" (Johnson, 5/18).

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