Contraception Compromise Doesn't Please Bishops

The leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops denounced President Obama's contraception compromise in a letter to its membership, citing "grave reservations" about a policy that would  allow employees of religious institutions to have access to contraception at no additional cost through insurance companies.

The revised plan, which was announced Friday,  makes contraception available to employees of religious institutions who seek it, while keeping the costs of contraception from being incurred by religious institutions that have a moral opposition to it.

According to the new plan, religious affiliated hospitals and universities will not be required to list contraception in their health plans or pay for it for their employees. Instead, the burden will fall on insurance companies, which will be mandated to provide contraception coverage to employees of abstaining institutions at no additional premium.

"It remains unclear as to how insurers will be compensated for the cost of these items, with some commentators suggesting that such compensation will ultimately be derived from the premiums paid by the religious employer," the bishops' letter said. "It does not meet our standard of respecting the religious liberty and moral convictions of all stakeholders in the health coverage transaction."

The nation's bishops also expressed a concern that the government is creating its own arbitrary definition of which organizations are "religious enough" to receive full protection under the rule.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said officials from the White House had reached out to their organization and offered to continue the dialogue to work out "questions that remained unanswered."

After the revised plan was announced Friday, the president of the Catholic Health Association said she was "pleased."

"The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed," Carol Keehan said in a written statement. "We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished."

Planned Parenthood also supported the president's decision.

"In the face of a misleading and outrageous assault on women's health, the Obama administration has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring all women will have access to birth control coverage, with no costly co-pays, no additional hurdles, and no matter where they work," Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said in a written statement before the announcement.

"We believe the compliance mechanism does not compromise a woman's ability to access these critical birth control benefits."