A senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity told reporters in a Thursday call that the policy that employer insurance cover birth control and the policy's conscience exemptions for some religious employers are similar to existing birth-control coverage requirements in several states, for which some Catholic schools qualify.
“There may be some parochial schools that qualify because their goal is to kind of to teach religion as well as to teach education; they primarily employ religious people of the same faith and they primarily serve students of the same faith,” the official said about the exemption policy.
But White House press secretary Jay Carney clarified later that the insurance coverage offered to the employees of Catholic hospitals will not qualify under the religious exemption to the birth control coverage mandate.
“It is, again, not requiring any individual to in any way violate his or her conscience; it is not requiring anything but employers—organizations—big hospitals and universities, for example—to offer insurance coverage that includes this service, just like elsewhere.”
Sr. Carol Keehan, Catholic Health Association president and CEO, issued a written statement after the final coverage mandate was published Jan. 20 that said CHA leaders “were profoundly disappointed to learn that the definition of a religious employer was not going to be broadened in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' rules for preventive services for women.”
The CHA's board announced that it will discuss a response to the requirement at its Feb. 8 meeting.
Carney added that the objections to the policy from Catholics and other religious groups have not led the administration to consider revising it. “We want to work with organizations for the next year to help them deal with the implementation of the policy, but the decision has been made and it was made after careful consideration,” he said.
So far, two religious universities have sued to block the birth-control coverage requirement and 21 senators have co-sponsored a bill introduced Tuesday by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to overturn the mandate.