The Birth Control Rule and Being ‘Disgusted’ by Russia and China — Today’s Q’s for O’s WH — 2/7/2012

Feb 7, 2012 3:29pm

TAPPER: In terms of the health care rule on birth control, it — this rule doesn’t provide this health service for “all” women, as you’ve said, though, right? Because there is a carve-out for houses of worship.

CARNEY: Correct. There is an exemption for churches and houses of worship. And I think that the principle here is that churches and houses of worship, it’s an issue of hiring people of life faith, versus these large institutions, like universities and hospitals, where, whether you’re a nurse or a teacher, a professor, a student, a janitor, somebody in administration, you are going to have folks of all faiths who work for those large institutions, and therefore the president believes that they ought to be able to have access — those women ought to be able to have access to the same contraceptive services that other women will have access to.

TAPPER: Is there a middle ground somewhere, where perhaps some of these religious organizations that aren’t specifically houses of worship, that are Catholic or Jewish or Baptist hospitals, charities, of a smaller size, could be — could receive the same exemption as the houses of worship? We’re talking about people who think that some methods of birth control are murder, are a sin and the Obama administration is forcing them to be party to that. I mean, that’s the crux here.

CARNEY: Well, let’s be clear. And first of all, we understand the religious concerns here. That is why this balance was sought. That’s why the process going forward includes a transition period where this discussion will continue to see if there can be ways found that ensure that women get access to this — these preventive services and that those services are covered as they will be for all other women, and it also takes into account these religious concerns.

But let’s be clear, the rule does not require any individual or institution to provide contraception. It requires coverage for women who work there of different faiths, of — or of any faith.

TAPPER: It requires them to pay for it.

CARNEY: Well, again, I — I’m not going to negotiate all the different possibilities of how this rule could be implemented in a way that might allay some of those concerns. That’s what the transition period is for.

TAPPER: Switching topics. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, Dr. Susan Rice, said that she was disgusted by the vote of Russia and China when it came to the Syria — the U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria. Does President Obama share that view? Would he use the word “disgusted”? And why does the White House think Russia and China voted against that resolution?

CARNEY: Well, I — we wouldn’t presume to speak for either of those two governments, or any foreign government. The — our views are that it was the wrong decision to block that Security Council resolution, the — and to, in effect, by doing that, give solace to and help sustain a regime that is brutally murdering its own people and a regime that, by the way, is not going to last; there will be a transition in Syria. And it is a mistake, we believe, for any country to put its eggs in that basket, if you will, because by doing that, you’re alienating the Syrian people, and many others in the region who are on the side of putting pressure on the Assad regime to get it to stop this behavior and to step aside so that a transition can take place in Syria.

And we are going to work with — continue to work with international allies and partners and with other friends of Syria — friends of the Syrian people to continue to pressure the Assad regime so that it ceases this reprehensible behavior.

TAPPER: Would the president use the word “disgusted,” as Ambassador –

CARNEY: Well, I’m not going to put words in his mouth. But the ambassador –

TAPPER: Well, he’s speaking for the White House.

CARNEY: Absolutely. The ambassador — the sentiments the ambassador was expressing reflect our great disappointment with that position taken. We will continue to, obviously, have these discussions with all of our partners internationally, at the United Nations Security Council and elsewhere, and we will continue to work with others — or sort of friends of Syria and the Syrian people to put the pressure that is required on the Assad regime.

TAPPER: Senator Lieberman said that it might be time for the United States to get in the business of helping to arm the opposition and take more aggressive measures. Is that something that the administration is willing to consider?

CARNEY: I don’t want to speculate. But we don’t — we are not considering that step right now. We are — we are exploring the possibility of providing humanitarian aid to Syrians, and we are working with our partners again to ratchet up the pressure, ratchet up the isolation on Assad and his regime. We’re seeing a lot of indications of a lack of control over the country by the regime, of interest by senior officials within the military and the government in separating themselves from the regime. So we believe that that pressure is having an impact. Ultimately, it needs to result in Assad ceasing the violence, stopping the brutality and allowing for a transition supported by the Syrian people.

– Jake Tapper

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