The Obama administration's new mandate that religious organizations pay for their workers' birth control has become a bludgeon for Republican culture warriors, as social issues have surged to the forefront in the presidential campaign.

Conservatives who believe religious freedom always trumps gender equity in the public arena are outraged. But so too are Roman Catholic and evangelical moderates who have stuck with President Barack Obama, an abortion rights supporter, because of his 2008 pledge to reduce the abortion rate and find common ground among religious and secular Americans. These backers say the administration could have easily avoided the controversy by including broader religious exemptions already in place at some federal agencies.

After two weeks of unrelenting condemnation led by the nation's Catholic bishops, the White House has responded by hinting at some compromise in how the requirement is enforced. Administration officials insist any accommodation for religious groups will leave in place contraceptive coverage, although they haven't said how. But even the suggestion of a revision, no matter how limited, has infuriated Democrats the president hoped to please with the regulation. As the debate rages, women's groups, liberal religious leaders and health advocates are rallying in favor of the broadest contraceptive coverage that would include Catholic employers.

"We believe that women and men have the right to decide whether or not to apply the principles of their faith to family-planning decisions, and to do so they must have access to services," read a statement Wednesday from liberal religious leaders representing Reform and Conservative Jews, Methodist and Episcopal groups, among others. "The administration was correct in requiring institutions that do not have purely sectarian goals to offer comprehensive preventive health care."

Complete your profile to continue reading and get FREE access to BenefitsPRO, part of your ALM digital membership.

  • Critical BenefitsPRO information including cutting edge post-reform success strategies, access to educational webcasts and videos, resources from industry leaders, and informative Newsletters.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM, BenefitsPRO magazine and events
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including and

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.