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Civic, family ties prompt Sebelius to address Catholic university grads

A love of government work and family apparently drove HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' controversial decision to accept an invitation to address a graduating class at one of the nation's highest-profile Roman Catholic universities.

Sebelius accepted an invitation earlier this week to address graduates of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute on May 18. The invitation has spawned protests by Catholic groups upset about a HHS healthcare reform mandate earlier this year that initially required Catholic universities and hospitals to provide birth control coverage to which they view as violating their core moral beliefs.But when asked about the controversy after an address today on health policy in school settings at the National Press Club, Sebelius focused on her reasons for speaking at the university.

“I was delighted to be invited to honor public servants,” Sebelius said. “I've been in public service all of my life. These are students who are dedicated to going into public service. I'm the daughter of a public servant. I'm also the mom of a double Georgetown grad and married to a Georgetown law student. So I'm very pleased to be able to accept the invitation.”

She declined to answer further questions.

Sebelius' decision to speak at Georgetown came amid an unresolved clash with Catholics spawned by the HHS birth control mandate. Obama administration officials changed the mandate to place it on the insurers that provide coverage to various affected institutions. However, many Catholic universities and hospitals self-insure and Obama administration officials have declined to commit to any exemptions for self-insured institutions as part of its final compromise expected in summer 2013.

Follow Rich Daly on Twitter @MHRDaly.
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