Obama’s birth-control rule stokes U.S. election-year fight
The top Republican in the U.S. Congress have denounced President Barack Obama’s new rule on contraceptives as an assault on “religious freedom” and vowed to overturn it, as the White House sought to prevent the issue from becoming an election-year liability. Fanning a political firestorm, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner joined an outcry from religious leaders and social conservatives on Wednesday over a requirement that health insurance plans, including those at Catholic hospitals, charities and universities, offer birth control to women.
Seeking to ease a controversy that has roiled the 2012 presidential race, White House spokesman Jay Carney appeared to leave the door open to compromise. He said Obama was sensitive to religious beliefs on contraception and hoped to find a way to implement the rule that can “allay some of the concerns.” But Obama, at a meeting with Senate Democrats, reaffirmed his decision and was “not equivocating,” Senator Frank Lautenberg, who attended the closed-door session, told Reuters.
Republicans have seized upon the issue, seeing a chance to paint Obama as anti-religion and put him on the defensive at a time when signs of economic improvement appear to have energized his re-election bid.
The White House, caught off-guard by the fury of the response and now trying to calm objections, accused the Republicans of trying to make “political hay” out of the issue. It said it had begun outside discussions but gave no immediate sign of what, if any, concessions it might make.