Written by: Katie Garren
Recently, President Obama made a statement on the subject of birth control that became a hotly contested issue. Recently, there seems to be an increased focus placed on the matter of women’s health. This matter always seems to come up during an election year. This year has been no different, with a slew of Republican hopefuls bringing up the subjects of birth control and abortion.
In Obama’s policy, he stated that health insurance plans would be required to provide free birth control to all female employees, including plans for Catholic hospitals, universities and charities. The President’s administration saw this as a matter of equality for women. Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, said upon the policy’s announcement, “I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.” This policy was intended to provide even preventative medicine for both men and women. The contraceptive requirement was accompanied by requirements for blood-pressure screening and childhood immunizations.
The speech quickly became a talking point, both for people who approve and those who do not approve of its requirements. Religious leaders were not at all open to the concept of providing contraceptives to women. Catholic bishops were outraged, saying that this requirement “continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions.” They later vowed to fight the legislation through the other two branches of government. Many leading Republicans also saw an opportunity to attack the President’s speech and interpret it as anti-religious. “This attack … on religious freedom in our country cannot stand and will not stand,” Speaker of the House John Boehner said in a speech on the floor of the chamber. Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich added to the increasing ire having said, “If he (Obama) is re-elected he will wage war on the Catholic Church the day after (he is elected). We don’t trust him.”
On Friday, Obama changed his position. In a calculated measure, Obama sought to quell the controversy created by his policy. In this revision, he states that religious organizations would not be required to provide free contraceptives to female employees. “Religious liberty will be protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women,” Obama told reporters.