The Washington Times - February 2, 2012, 02:25PM

Under fire from Catholic groups, senior administration officials went out of their way Thursday to explain President Obama’s decision to require Catholic hospitals, charities, colleges and other nonchurch entities to cover contraception in insurance plans.

“We believe it strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious beliefs and providing access to services,” one senior administration official said.


Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers must cover a list of preventative services that includes contraception and can’t charge a co-pay or deductible for them. For Catholic organizations, that means they will have to pay for employee health plans that cover contraceptives — despite being opposed to contraception on the basis of their faith.

Churches are exempt from the requirement, but other organizations had asked to be excused as well. Two weeks ago, Mr. Obama announced he would not expand the exemptions, prompting an outcry by leading Catholics.

Speaking with reporters Thursday, officials pointed out that the vast majority of women — including Catholic women — use contraception.

They also emphasized that the president’s decision doesn’t change existing restrictions on federal funding for abortion.

“Nothing about this policy changes the president’s commitment to maintain strict restrictions on federal dollars for abortions,” an official said.

On Thursday, House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, criticized the administration’s decision.

“This mandate violates our Constitution, I think it violates the rights of these religious organizations, and I would hope that the administration would back up and take another look at this,” Mr. Boehner said during his weekly briefing with reporters.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat — who, like Mr. Boehner, is Catholic — said Thursday she supports the administration’s decision.

“I will stick by my fellow Catholics in supporting the administration on this,” Mrs. Pelosi told reporters Thursday. “It was a very courageous decision.”

Sean Lengell contributed to this article.