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The White House's Dangerous Dance With the Birth Control Mandate

Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post. This week, on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Obama campaign senior advisor David Axelrod signaled that the White House, having finally decided to include coverage of birth control as part of primary health care benefits under health reform after studying it for well over a year, is now "willing to compromise." Translation? The White House is considering "accommodations" to the policy. Many of my colleagues disagree with my take on the situation. Many have pointed me to, and I have read, the so-called clarification on Tuesday by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney of what Axelrod really meant. I also read the further clarification made on Wednesday. I don't find either very clarifying. In fact, I find them worrisome. In Tuesday's White House press conference, for example, ABC's Jake Tapper asks Carney:
Is there a middle ground somewhere where perhaps some of these religious organizations that aren’t specifically houses of worship, but 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.
And Carney responds:
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 these preventive services and that those services are covered -- as they will be for all other women -- and that 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, or of any faith.
He continues:
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.
Then on Wednesday, Carney said:
“The commitment to make sure that all American women no matter where they work have access to the same health care coverage and same preventive care services, including contraception, is absolutely firm.  That’s the President’s commitment, that's explicit in the policy proposal. The discussion, and it's an important one, but the discussion is how can we, in implementing this policy, try to allay some of the concerns that have been expressed?  And the President is very sensitive to that.  As is Secretary Sebelius and others.  But that's the issue.  So, describe that as you will but there is no change in the commitment to ensuring that women have access to these important services.”
Why does this worry me? Continue reading....