"It was a pretty extraordinary situation . . ."
White House Press Secretary downplays revolt against HHS
31 January, 2012
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
The White House
The Obama administration has decided that, as a matter of public
policy, individual women should not have to pay for "FDA approved
contraceptive services," which include surgical sterilization,
contraceptives, and potential embryocides and abortifacients.
for this policy are mainly economic and socio-political.
Since sterilization and birth control have to be paid for by
someone, the administration intends to force others to pay for them
through insurance plans, even if they object to doing so for reasons
of conscience or religion.
The Obama adminstration
announced on 20 January, 2012, that it would proceed with plans
to force employers to pay for insurance coverage for
"contraceptive services" (which include surgical
sterilization and potentially embryocidal and
abortifacient drugs and devices). The Orthodox
Jewish Union and National Association of Evangelicals
were among those who protested within days of the
announcement. The response from the Catholic
Church was particularly noteworthy. By the end of
the month, over half the Catholic bishops in the country
had denounced the plan in letters to their congregations
or public statements. Many stated bluntly that
they would refuse to comply with the law.
When introducing his question on the subject, a
reporter at the White House press briefing called
this "a pretty extraordinary situation."
What follows is an annotated extract of the
questions and answers on this topic during the news
For Immediate Release
31 January, 2012
Office of the Press Secretary
Press Briefing by Press
Secretary Jay Carney, 1/31/12
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the United States Senate.
Q Second topic -- the Catholic Church. It was a
pretty extraordinary situation on Sunday in parishes all
across the country, individual priests were reading
letters from their bishops in that particular parish
that were pretty much denouncing the Obama
administration about these provisions dealing with
contraception, Catholic hospitals and whatnot in
connection with the Affordable Care Act. I guess my
question would be, how does the administration justify
having the federal government institute a law that
basically forces people to violate their religious
MR. CARNEY: Well, that misrepresents actually what the
Q How so?
MR. CARNEY: -- decision about the implementation of the
Affordable Care Act --
Q How does that misrepresent --
MR. CARNEY: Well, let me -- let me -- let me answer. The
decision was made, as we have said in the past and
Secretary Sebelius has said, after very careful
consideration, and the administration believes that this
proposal strikes the appropriate balance between
respecting religious beliefs and increasing access to
important preventive services. We will continue to work
closely with religious groups during this transitional
period to discuss their concerns.
Acting on a
promise made by President Obama during the 2008
election, the administration eviscerated a
protection of conscience regulation enacted under
President G.W. Bush. President Obama's
regulation cleared the way for the demand in the
"preventive services" regulation.
It's important -- to go to your point -- that this
approach does not signal any change at all in the
administration's policy on conscience protections. The
President and this administration have previously
expressed strong support for existing conscience
protections, including those relating to health care
providers. That support continues.
September, 2011, the administration cut funding to a
successful anti-human trafficking programme run by the
Catholic Church because it would not provide
contraception and abortion- even though the evaluation
of the Catholic programme demonstrated its superiority
to the other applicants. [NCR;
I also would just note that our robust partnerships with
the Catholic Church and other communities of faith will
continue. The administration has provided over $2
billion to Catholic organizations over the past three
years in addition to numerous nonfinancial partnerships
that promote healthy communities and serve the common
Q The bishops are saying just the opposite. They're
saying that basically if somebody is working in a
Catholic hospital and they don't cover contraception for
their employees, that they're in violation of federal
law. So I don't understand how you're saying that there
are still conscience protections. They would violate the
law, wouldn't they?
The answer does
not address the issue raised by the question: coercion
of employers to pay for services to which they object
for reasons of conscience.
MR. CARNEY: Well, this does not direct an individual to
do anything, first of all. The new guidelines require
most private health plans to cover preventive services,
including contraception, for women without charging a
copay, coinsurance or deductible.
in the regulation is so narrow that Priests for
Life, a group that publicly advocates the Catholic
position against contraception, will be compelled to
offer its employees insurance coverage for
contraception. The group has sued the federal
for Life News Release]
The guidelines were recommended by the nonpartisan,
independent Institute of Medicine. The administration
also released a proposed regulation that allows
nonprofit, religious employers that offer insurance to
their employees the choice of whether or not to cover
"FDA-approved forms of contraception" include surgical
sterilization and drugs and devices that may cause the
death of an embryo before implantation (embryocides) or
after implantation (abortifacients).
After reviewing comments from the public, the
administration announced that the final rule on
preventive health services will ensure that women with
health insurance coverage will have access to the full
range of recommended preventive services, including
FDA-approved forms of contraception.
commitment is to discussion only, not to
And I would just note that we will work with religious
groups during a transitional period
to discuss their
concerns. But this decision was made after careful
consideration by Secretary Sebelius, and we believe that
the proposal strikes the appropriate balance between
religious beliefs on the one hand and the need to
increase access to important preventive services for
Q Last thing on this. E.J. Dionne, though -- I mean, a
lot of Republicans have attacked -- but a Democrat who's
Catholic, E.J. Dionne, wrote in The Washington Post
yesterday that the President, in his words, "utterly
botched this policy." And he said he, "threw his
progressive Catholic allies under the bus." So despite
everything you just read, you have Democratic Catholics
saying that that's not true.
MR. CARNEY: The idea that there are people who disagree
-- well, Ed, all you're pointing out is that there are
people who disagree with the decision. We understand
that not everyone agrees with it. All I can tell you is
it was made after very careful consideration based on
the need to balance those two issues and that the
necessity to provide access to preventive services for
women was an important consideration.
Q What about the constitutional right to freedom of
religion? Is that still --
Colorado Christian University v.
Kathleen Sebelius et al;
Bemont Abbey College v. Kathleen
Sebelius et al;
EWTN v.Kathleen Sebelius et al.
Again, the commitment is limited to discussion, not
I don't believe there are any constitutional
rights issues here, but I would refer you to others to
discuss that. That's not -- I understand that there's
controversy and we understand that and we will continue
to work with religious groups to discuss
But on the other side of this was the important need to
provide access to women to the preventive services that
And the thing you just read to me was a political
observation. This was a policy based on the merits.
Q Jay, if I could follow up on that --
MR. CARNEY: No, let me -- let me move around here.
we will not - comply with this unjust law."(Letter
from Bishop of Phoenix)
Q The bishop of Phoenix said Catholics shouldn't comply
with this law. Will there be any consequences for not --
answering the question.
MR. CARNEY: I'm the wrong guy to ask
Q Thanks. On Iran, DNI Clapper told
Congress . . .[Full
text & video]