US bishops reserve judgment on birth control rule
Posted February 10, 2012
WASHINGTON — The head of the nation's Roman Catholic bishops says it's too soon to tell whether the Obama administration's revamped rule on birth control will address the church's objections.
But Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan on Friday called a revised birth control mandate a good first step toward addressing religious liberty concerns.
President Barack Obama said he is backing off a new requirement for religious employers to provide free birth control coverage, even if it runs counter to their religious beliefs. Instead, health insurance companies would be required to reach out to female employees of those institutions to offer free contraception directly to them.
Dolan said the bishops will reserve judgment until details are released, noting that bishops still believe federal legislation is needed to protect religious freedom.
Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Raleigh said he thinks Obama's initial policy, which was rolled out three weeks ago, wasn't well thought out, even though it gave religious-affiliated schools, hospitals and charities an extra year to comply with the federal law.
"This is a very serious issue that brings us to the heart of religious liberty and freedom," said Burbidge, who leads the Catholic church in the eastern half of North Carolina.
Like many bishops, he said he also has questions about the compromise Obama announced.
"Who is paying for that?" he said of the contraceptives. "It seems to me there still could be significant concern that, in an indirect way, our original concern could exist."
Dr. Katie Barrett, chairwoman of the obstetrics and gynecology department at Rex Women's Health in Raleigh, said she thinks Obama's compromise is a good one. Finances shouldn't affect access to birth control, she said.
"It's going to not force people to do something that they don't believe in, but also going to make it available to the majority of women, who may not have those same beliefs," Barrett said.