Carney to bishops: Birth control decision is final

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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White House spokesman Jay Carney on Thursday dismissed calls for a reconsideration of President Barack Obama’s controversial regulation of the health care policies offered by religious organizations, one day after Catholic leaders repeated their offer to hash out an agreement.

“The solution that was reached here … has been reached, and we firmly believe that it achieves the goals that the president set,” Carney said at Thursday’s White House press conference.

On Feb. 10 Obama announced a new regulation that forces religious groups to financially support activities they abhor, but that the government supports. In particular, the president directed religious organizations to provide insurance policies that offer free contraceptives.

But “government has no place defining religion and religious ministry,” said the Mar. 14 statement by the top-level administrative committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“If this [regulatory] definition is allowed to stand, it will spread throughout federal law, weakening its healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity … [and] is unprecedented in federal law, which has long been generous in protecting the rights of individuals not to act against their religious beliefs or moral convictions,” said the statement.

Carney was dismissive.

Obama “brought the process to a solution here that met his two objectives — to ensure that women across America … were able to get the same preventive services, including contraception services without having to pay for them, and that those who have religious objections … would not have to provide or pay.”

“That is the solution we reached,” he said.

Since then, Democratic partisans have portrayed objections by many religious denominations as a GOP “war on women,” and have said that portrayal has boosted their poll numbers.

On Wednesday the Catholic committee invited new negotiations with the administration.

“We will continue to accept any invitation to dialogue with the Executive Branch to protect the religious freedom that is rightly ours,” the statement said.

To derail Obama’s edict, the committee also promised to promote advocacy by Catholic groups.

“We will continue our vigorous efforts at education and public advocacy. … We will continue to pursue legislation to restore the same level of religious freedom we have enjoyed until just recently. … We will continue to explore our options for relief from the courts, under the U.S. Constitution. … All of these efforts will proceed concurrently, and in a manner that is mutually reinforcing.”

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