Congressional Hearing Takes On Obama's Birth Control Policy

Religious leaders told a House panel on Thursday that the Obama administration is encroaching on their religious freedom with policies for requiring religion-affiliated organizations to provide their employees with birth control coverage.

The issue ignited controversy among Catholics and other religious groups who are strongly protesting what was originally a Health and Human Services ruling. The regulation required religion-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and universities to provide free birth control coverage to their employees.

"We deem this recent government mandate as an infringement upon the beliefs and practices of various religious communities," the Rev. Matthew C. Harrison told the panel on Thursday. "Therefore, we voice our public objections in solidarity with those who cherish their religious liberties. The decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to require virtually all health plans to comply with this mandate will have the effect of forcing many religious organizations to choose between following the letter of the law or operating within the framework of their religious tenets."

Last Friday, President Obama adjusted the policy so that insurance companies, and not the institution affiliated with a church, would pay for the birth control coverage. However, the change didn't satisfy religious leaders.

"This putative accommodation is, however, no accommodation at all," Rabbi Meir Soloveichik said. "The religious organizations would still be obligated to provide employees with an insurance policy that facilitates acts violating the organizations religious tenets."

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi expressed concern at a news conference following the hearing that for an issue on women's health, there should have been more women testimonies. Only two witnesses were women.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. is pushing an amendment that would allow insurance plans to opt out of the rule on birth control coverage if they have moral objections. The White House opposes the bill.

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