White House: Birth Control Mandate ‘Virtually Identical’ to Romney’s Massachusetts Policy

By Fred Lucas | February 8, 2012 | 4:51 PM EST

(CNSNews.com) – White House Press Secretary Jay Carney scoffed at Republican primary candidate Mitt Romney’s criticism of a new rule that will require all health insurance policies – except for people working directly in a church or seminary – to cover sterilization and FDA-approved contraceptives, including those that induce abortions, saying that Romney backed a near-identical policy as governor of Massachusetts.

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The new policy, part of Obamacare and due to go into effect on Aug. 1, has been denounced by the U.S. Catholic of Conference Bishops (USCCB) as a violation of religious liberty that would force Catholics to act against their faith. The regulation has also been condemned by the U.S. bishops of the Orthodox Church and by at least 158 members of Congress.

At Wednesday’s White House briefing, Carney said, “You know, the former governor of Massachusetts is an odd messenger on this given that the services that this rule would provide for women around the country are the same that were provided in Massachusetts and were provided when he was governor -- including contraception, including, you know, covered with no co-pay or deductible, religious exemptions for houses of worship and churches, and church-controlled organizations such as parochial schools but not to universities and hospitals.”

“I mean this is, I think, ironic, that Mitt Romney is expressing, criticizing the president for pursuing a policy that's virtually identical to the one that was in place when he was governor of Massachusetts,” Carney said.

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during an election night rally in Denver, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

On Tuesday in Denver, Romney, according to the Associated Press, had said of the regulation:  “This kind of assault on religion will end if I'm president of the United States.” He had made similar comments after primary-race victory speeches in Nevada and Florida.

However, when he was governor of Massachusetts in 2005, Romney ordered the Department of Public Health to instruct hospitals, including private Catholic health centers, to provide access to abortion-inducing drugs for rape victims. “In my personal view, it's the right thing for hospitals to provide information and access to emergency contraception to anyone who is a victim of rape,” said then-Gov. Romney.

The Massachusetts Catholic Conference, the public policy organization of the state’s Catholic bishops, opposed the use of such drugs, explaining then that the destruction of a human embryo, an unborn child, was against the church’s teaching.

At Wednesday’s briefing, Press Secretary Carney further said, “Well, the president is focused on putting in place the right policy for women across the country. We’re focused on finding a balance that is sensitive to some concerns expressed by religious groups.”

A reporter also asked a question about a tweet by the Rev. Rick Warren, an evangelical Christian, who gave the benediction at Obama’s inauguration. Warren had tweeted, “I’d go to jail rather than cave in to a goverment mandate that violates what God commands us to do. Would you? Acts 5:29.”

President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

“As you know, he [Warren] has a lot of twitter followers and tons of people interested in what he’s saying. Are you worried that that rallies the Republican base?” the reporter asked.

Carney responded that President Obama did not have political considerations in mind when authorizing the new rule by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“We’re not worried about Republicans or Democrats, the political component of this,” Carney said. “We’re concerned about making sure that women get access to these important services, that women are treated equally around the country, regardless of where they work.”

“But we are very sensitive to and understand some of the concerns that have been expressed and that is why, as part of the original announcement of this by Secretary [Kathleen] Sebelius, we put in place a process where further discussions could be had that would address hopefully some of these concerns and maybe allay some of them,” said Carney.