Chicago Sun-Times

Birth control policy even divides Dems

‘This is not only unacceptab­le, it is un-american,’ W.VA. senator says


WASHINGTON — Democrats are deeply divided over President Barack Obama’s new rule that religious schools and hospitals must provide insurance for free birth control to their employees amid fresh signs that the administra­tion was scrambling for a way out.

“This is not only unacceptab­le, it is un-american,” says Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.VA., a Catholic who faces re-election in November in a state wherewedne­sday nights are reserved for church services.

Another Catholic senator, Bob Casey of Pennsylvan­ia, has pleaded with the administra­tion “to correct this decision which will erode the conscience rights” that have been protected for decades. His opposition echoes the criticism of his bishop in Scranton, the Rev. Joseph C. Bambera.

Several Democrats, including Senate candidate Tim Kaine in Virginia and Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski, have been outspoken in assailing the recently announced administra­tion mandate that has angered religious groups and unified Republican­s in protest. In a reflection of the party split, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-nev., on Thursday blocked a GOP effort to debate an amendment on religious freedom.

Aday earlier, liberal female senators thanked Obama for the new policy during a closed-door retreat.

“We’re here to stand up for the women of America who deserve to have access to free preventive care through their health insurance,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-calif., said later at a news conference.

House Minorityle­adernancy Pelosi, D-calif., on Thursday promised a fierce debate on women’s rights if Republican­s tried to repeal the policy.

Even though church-affiliated hospitals, colleges and social service agencies will have one additional year to comply with the requiremen­t, issued last month in regulation­s under Obama’s health care overhaul, the outcry has been loud and fierce. Facing intense pressure, the White House indicated this week that it is trying to come up with a compromise.

Vice President Joe Biden, a Catholic, said in a radio interview Thursday that “there is going to be a significan­t attempt to work this out and there is time to do that.” He said the one-year grace period is “to make sure thatwe do not force the Catholic Church to do something that they fundamenta­lly think is inconsiste­nt with their religious beliefs.”

More than 150 Catholic cardinals and bishops throughout the country have been relentless in assailing the policy.

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