The internal struggle within the White House over whether to continue or drop the mandate for all employers to cover contraceptive costs with no provisions for religious exclusions, lasted for months before President Obama made his decision.
While Republicans are gleefully pouncing on this election year 'gift' from President Obama, and some high-profile Democrats are 'bailing on' the President on this issue, and voters appear to not be fleeing in droves because of the decision, the President was warned that the decision could cost him votes in November.
President Barack Obama ended months of internal White House debate by siding with a group of mostly female adviserswho urged him not to limit a health-care law mandate to provide contraceptives, even at the risk of alienating Catholic voters in November, people familiar with the discussions said.It seems the President's various advisers thought the decision would result in a net cost in votes. So, Obama took a political risk with this decision. Ultimately the decision rested on making available health care to women.
Vice President Joe Biden and then-White House chief of staff Bill Daley, [both] Catholics, warned that the mandate would be seen as a government intrusion on religious institutions. Even moderate Catholic voters in battleground states might be alienated, they warned, according to the people familiar with the discussions.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic and a two-term governor of Kansas, was joined by several female Obama advisers in urging against a broad exemption for religious organizations. To do so would leave too many women without coverage and sap the enthusiasm for Obama among women’s rights advocates, they said, according to the people, who spoke about the deliberations on condition of anonymity.
The public debate follows a struggle within the White House that dragged on for months. White House advisers hunted repeatedly for a middle ground that might accommodate both sides, only to run into legal obstacles.
Sebelius was backed by adviser Valerie Jarrett, Tina Tchen, the first lady’s chief of staff, and Melody Barnes, then director of the Domestic Policy Council, the people said.
Reproductive rights groups, such as Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Democratic U.S. senators Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Boxer and Murray, pressed the administration to stick with a preliminary rule announced by Sebelius in August.
Advocates countered warnings of alienating Catholics with arguments that an exemption might depress enthusiasm for Obama among women, a disproportionate share of Democratic voters.
At the same time, Carney indicated there was no move to fundamentally alter the plan. Obama’s interest is “making sure that all American women, all women here, have access to the same preventive care services,” he said.