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Policy: Health Care

Obama: HHS mandate on contraception prevents 'government meddling'

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke,Barack Obama,Health Care,HHS

President Obama suggested that his mandate that insurance companies provide free contraception is an effort to avoid "government meddling" in health care.

"This contraception fight in particular was illuminating," Obama told a group of women at a campaign fundraiser yesterday. "This is a [Republican] party that says it prides itself on being rabidly anti-regulation. These are folks who claim to believe in freedom from government interference and meddling. But it doesn’t seem to bother them when it comes to women’s health."

The religious groups that oppose the mandate argue that the mandate infringes on their religious liberty by requiring them to pay for a given product, the use of which they believe to be immoral. They have not called for a ban on contraception.

"The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception," the U,S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote in a January letter protesting the mandate. "And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to either violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so)."

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius did not study the constitutional issues involved in the contraception debate before the regulation was put in place.

"I am not going to wade into constitutional law," she told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "I do not pretend to be a constitutional lawyer," she added, before explaining that she "relied on discussions" with lawyers to assess the implications of the rule for religious liberty.

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