On Friday when President Barack Obama announced a compromise had been reached on a controversial policy mandating access to contraceptive services, Connecticut's congressional delegation fired off statements to the news media in support of revisions the administration had made.
"In this politically charged environment, it is heartening to see that we can come together to find a path forward that protects the health needs of women while recognizing the conscience concerns of religious institutions," U.S. Rep. John Larson, a Roman Catholic, said in a statement published by the Hartford Courant.
But soon after the announcement, Catholic bishops across the country renewed their opposition to the policy, including the revisions, and what had been described as a compromise now appears far from settled.
The Catholic bishops said the revisions, which would no longer require employers to pay for such services, did not go far enough in protecting religious liberties because it still would require private health plans to provide women access to birth control even if their employers objected.
"We will therefore continue – with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency – our efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government," the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement posted late Friday to its website. "For example, we renew our call on Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. And we renew our call to the Catholic faithful, and to all our fellow Americans, to join together in this effort to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all."
The White House had proposed that rather than requiring employers to carry contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the requirement would shift to the insurance company, which would be required to offer those services directly to the woman free of charge.
Under that scenario, religious organizations would not have to subsidize the contraception costs and would not have to play any role in the matter, according to the administration. Churches and houses of worship also would be exempt from the requirement to refer or provide coverage for contraception, administration officials said.
Offering contraceptive services, according to the White House, would be considered cost-neutral to the insurance company because it would prevent additional health costs, adding the Federal Employees Health Benefit System saw no increase in premiums when contraception was added and required of non-religious employees in Hawaii.
However, Catholic bishops said the services would still remain a part of the insurance plan, and as a result inherently financed by the employer who objects to the services on moral grounds. The mandate also would appear to apply to self-insurance plans, according to the bishops.
"We note at the outset that the lack of clear protection for key stakeholders — for self-insured religious employers; for religious and secular for-profit employers; for secular non-profit employers; for religious insurers; and for individuals — is unacceptable and must be corrected," according to the group's statement.