'Balance' sought on birth control issue

Feb. 21, 2012 at 8:58 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama is trying to find "the right balance" on the birth control mandate issue, his press secretary said Tuesday.

A controversy has flared over the administration's push to have all health insurance policies include contraceptive services with no co-pay. Religious-affiliated organizations that oppose birth control are pushing back through the courts and other venues, including a letter sent to the president Monday that was signed by about 2,500 pastors who said they have "serious concerns" about the mandate.

After the firestorm erupted, Obama announced the rule was being modified so if a woman's employer objects to birth control for religious reasons, the insurance company would be required to offer contraceptive services free of charge.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said during his daily briefing with reporters the administration is having "conversations to work out a solution" with "stakeholders" such as religious hospitals and universities and will work for them while ensuring "women who work for those institutions will get the same coverage and preventive services coverage that women across America will get."

"The president's focus was on finding the right balance," Carney said.

"He knows from his own experience that these issues matter and they need to be respected, and that is the balance he sought in the solution that was put forward, and we are continuing to work with stakeholders to implement that solution in a way that we believes satisfies the concerns or should satisfy the concerns of those about -- in terms of their religious beliefs.

"... The approach was to find that balance, to ensure that the coverage was provided, and to respect religious beliefs. It was not to ensure that everybody said they were OK with it, because, you know, you often cannot find a solution to difficult issues if that's the approach you take."

The pastors' letter contends the mandate "was not necessary, nor warranted," under the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

"Worse still is the fact that the mandate essentially ignores the conscience rights of many Catholic and Protestant Americans," the letter states. "Our country was founded on certain freedoms, the first of which is the freedom of religion.

"It is unfathomable to picture a country that would deny religious freedoms.

"This mandate is all the more egregious for including drugs and devices that are known and scientifically shown to function in ways that can cause abortions, including varieties of the morning-after-pill, both before and after implantation. The conscience rights of those who object to such drugs, let alone object to being forced to cover such drugs, is clearly violated by the administration action."

The letter goes on to request that Obama reverse his decision.

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