The White House Defends Requiring Insurance Companies to Cover Contraception Despite Catholic Church Objections- Today's Q's for O's WH - 2/2/12

TAPPER: Two health care issues in the news today. The Susan G. Komen Foundation has decided to stop funding breast cancer screening at Planned Parenthood. Twenty-two Democratic senators just wrote a letter to the Komen Foundation asking them to change that decision. I'm wondering if the White House or President Obama have an opinion.

CARNEY: Yeah, I don't - I've seen the reports but I don't have any comment on it from the White House. These are obviously two private organizations, so I don't have anything for you on that.

TAPPER: And then Speaker Boehner today said that he thought that the rule that HHS recently announced requiring all health insurance to provide contraceptive services - he thought that that rule which, as you know aroused the ire of the Catholic Church among other organizations, is unconstitutional.

And I'm wondering why - without getting into the whole constitutionality, because neither you nor I are attorneys - why does the Obama administration think it has the right to tell any organization that they have to provide a service, even if that service goes against their religious beliefs?

CARNEY: Well, let's be clear about what the decision does. Oh, and the - first of all, on the constitutionality issue, no, we do not believe - we obviously believe this is constitutional.

But the point of the decision, which was made after careful consideration and, we believe, reaches the appropriate balance between religious beliefs and the need to provide - make services available to women across the country - you know, we want to make sure that women have access to good health care no matter where they work and that all women who want access to contraceptives are able to get them without paying a copay every time they go to the pharmacy.

And let's be clear about it, because there's been a lot of - in the - some of the commentary about it, there's been some mis-statements about what it actually does. No individual will be required to use or prescribe contraception. This rule does not force anyone with a religious objection, such as a Catholic doctor, to prescribe or provide contraception. It merely requires that insurance companies provide coverage for contraceptives to patients who want them, which is the recommendation of the nonpartisan Institute of Medicine.

And it's important to note that doctors prescribe contraception for medical and health reasons, including helping to reduce the risk of some cancers. It's also important to know, because I think this has not been clear in some of the commentary, that the policy maintains the religious employer exemption. Churches are not required - they're exempt - other houses of worship are not required - they're exempt - to cover contraception.

So it's also important to note that in - as we developed this policy and found what we believe is the appropriate balance, that 28 states - more than half - 28 states in the country have laws with contraception coverage mandates. Over half of Americans already live in those 28 states. Several of those states, like North Carolina, New York and California, have identical religious employer exemptions. Some states, like Colorado, Georgia and Wisconsin, have no exemption at all, no exemption for churches or other houses of worship.

TAPPER: But as President Obama acknowledged in his comments at the prayer breakfast this morning, there are Catholic charities and other Catholic organizations that are not houses of worship in which, obviously, their beliefs are very strongly held. It's what they do for a living. They believe that life begins at the moment -


TAPPER: - that the -

CARNEY: And the policy doesn't -

TAPPER: - egg is fertilized.

CARNEY: - does not require any individual to take or provide or prescribe contraception. It is simply - requires employers to offer insurance coverage that provides that.

TAPPER: That provides services that they find morally objectionable.

CARNEY: Well - that - but the individuals have - should have the - in our estimation, should have the same rights to have that kind of coverage. It's an important health issue, and it's also an important financial issue for women across the country.

Again, I just - as I just made clear to you, 28 states have similar - similarly require insurance companies to cover contraception. And several states, large ones - North Carolina, New York and California - have identical religious employer exemptions. And some - Colorado, Georgia and Wisconsin - have no exemption at all.

So I think the idea that this is something wholly new is - has not been well-explained in some of the coverage. Again, it makes sure that employees - you know, we're talking about, you know, employers here and employees - and employees of all different faiths who might work at organizations that are affiliated with a single faith - we need to make sure that those employees of all different faiths get - have access to contraception. And that's why we sought the - what we believe is an appropriate balance.

TAPPER: Can you see why individuals are -

CARNEY: Well, we certainly -

TAPPER: - offended by it and feel like supporting -

CARNEY: Well, we certainly see that there's disagreement about this. We consulted with a wide range of people in establishing this policy and finding the balance that was found. And we're certainly aware of some of the reporting out there. But I think it's important to note that there hasn't been a lot of clarity to what the policy actually is, the exemption that exists within it and what it's requiring here.

It is, again, not requiring any individual to in any way violate his or her conscience. It is not requiring anything but employers - organizations, big hospitals and universities, for example - to offer insurance coverage that includes this service, just like elsewhere.

-Jake Tapper