White House Position
on Exemption from Contraception Coverage
“Not a Done Deal”?

See update below.

Jodi Jacobson reports at RHRealityCheck that the Obama administration feels it “owes” the bishops for helping to pass health care reform. The Bishops have pressed the White House to broaden the exemption for religious institutions under the Affordable Care Act, so they can decline to offer insurance that covers, free of co-pays, contraceptives for employees. The Bishops argue that such coverage violates their religious conscience.

Yesterday I reported that pro-choice groups expected Obama to side with the Bishops, as does the anti-choice group Democrats for Life.

When asked for comment on Jacobson’s report that the administration believes it “owes” the Bishops, a White House spokesperson directed me to the Department of Health and Human Services, which declined to comment.

I’ve otherwise been unable to confirm thus far that this was what was communicated by the White House to womens’ and reproductive rights groups. However, a source within one such organization, which had representatives at White House meetings on the topic, described the tenor of such meetings as “listening and not giving a sense of where the administration was leaning.” 

The Washington Post reports this morning that Democratic Senators, on a phone call yesterday with White House senior advisor David Plouffe, argued against adopting the Bishops’ position. 

My source says it’s “not a done deal” yet, but expected action from the White House within a week.

UPDATE: Another womens’ rights advocate tells me that she has “no reason to think” that the Obama administration feels it “owes” the Bishops for health care reform, or that it conveyed such sentiments to womens’ rights groups.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email