'The President Has Not Changed His Position' on Contraceptive Mandate, WH Chief of Staff Says

February 13, 2012 - 8:49 AM

Jack Lew

In this photo provided by FOX News, White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew talks on FOX News Sunday in Washington, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012. Lew, who appeared on various Sunday shows, commented on President Barack Obama’s contraception health plan change saying “It’s quite significant that a range of Catholic institutions support this plan.” (AP Photo/Fox News, Fred Watkins)

(CNSNews.com) - On Friday, President Obama announced what the White House called a "new policy to improve access to contraception." But on Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew indicated that there's nothing new about what the president said.

President Obama on Friday simply "speeded up the process he's now implemented," Lew told CBS's "Face the Nation."

"The president has not changed his position. His position was and is and has been that women have a right to the full range of preventive health, including contraception, and we have to do it in a way that's respectful of religious differences. We have implemented the policy, so I think the president has stuck to his position throughout."

CBS moderator Bob Schieffer asked Lew to clarify: "Are you saying that the president came out Friday and did not change his policy?"

"I think what the president did on Friday was he provided the detail -- the detail was always going to come.

"It is an important principle that women have a right to get all forms of preventive health, including contraception. The president has always been sensitive to the concerns of institutions that have religious objections. The solution that the president announced on Friday is one that puts no institution that claims to have religious objection...in the position where they either have to pay for or provide benefits that they find objectionable, but women will have the right to get them -- reconciling two very different principles."

Lew noted that some Catholic groups --- he mentioned the Catholic Health association and Catholic Charities -- "embraced what the president announced, because it did successfully bring together these two principles."

Lew said "there are some who want to divide and say that there's no way to come to an agreement that bridges the difference."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says President Obama's Friday statement did not go far enough, but Lew dismissed the criticism: "We never expected there would be universal acceptance of what the president was proposing," Lew said, insisting that the White House has "broad consensus," if not "universal consensus."

"But this is an approach that's right: We're going to go ahead and implement it, and women are going to have access in institutions like Catholic universities and Catholic hospitals, will not be in the position that they had feared. I think that's a good solution. It draws on the best in the American tradition."