HHS Secretary Sebelius: I Didn’t Speak to Bishops on Contraception Rule Change

Wednesday, 15 Feb 2012 03:40 PM

By Dan Weil

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President Barack Obama’s original decision to require religious employers to provide healthcare coverage guaranteeing free access to contraception upset Catholics as much as anyone.

But when the administration tweaked its decision last week so that religious groups could refrain from providing that coverage, which instead would have to come from private insurers, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius didn’t consult with Catholic bishops. That’s what she told a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Obama’s budget Wednesday, Politico reports.

“I did not speak with the Catholic bishops,” she said. “I know that the president has spoken to the bishops on several occasions.” The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has ripped the administration for not consulting with them before announcing the change.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, asked if the administration or Obama campaign officials had consulted abortion rights groups such as Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and NARAL Pro-Choice America, Politico reports.

“I assume some of those groups were talked to,” Sebelius said, adding that she wasn’t sure. Hatch also asked for a reply to a letter sent by him and other senators asking if HHS had performed an analysis of the contraception coverage requirement to judge its legality. Sebelius said she didn't know what became of the letter but promised to “respond as rapidly as I possibly can.”

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