The Obama administration is willing to work with Catholic universities, hospitals and other church-affiliated employers to implement a new policy that requires health insurers to offer birth control coverage, a top adviser to the president’s re-election campaign said on Tuesday.
David Axelrod, a senior campaign adviser to President Barack Obama, said the administration had heard the Roman Catholic Church’s concerns and never intended to “abridge anyone’s religious freedom.”
But he gave no sign that the administration would reverse course under intensifying pressure from church leaders and political heat from Republican presidential candidates.
“This is an important issue. It’s important for millions of women across this country. We want to resolve it in an appropriate way, and we’re going to do that,” Axelrod said in remarks on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program.
White House spokesman Jay Carney also sought to diffuse criticism from church leaders, telling reporters later on Tuesday the administration would work with religious organizations “to see if the implementation of the policy can be done in a way that allays some of those concerns.”
U.S. Catholic bishops have slammed the Obama administration for a regulation finalized on January 20 that would require health insurance to include birth control and other preventative health services for women. The leaders contend the policy infringes on religious liberty because the church does not condone birth control of any kind.
Over the weekend, Catholic clergy across the country called for congregations to pressure Obama to back down.
“To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a statement last month.
Jim Towey, president of Ave Maria University in Florida, who also served in the administration of President George W. Bush, said on Tuesday he would fight the provision using “all lawful means at our disposal.”
“Our non-Catholic employees and students understand fully that the University must adhere to Catholic teaching and they do not expect us to provide such services,” he said in a statement. [More]