below, talking points the Obama White House sent to congressional Democrats on Obama White House decision on Catholics and contraception coverage....
Talking Points: Preventive Health Services and Religious Institutions
· Today, President Obama announced that his Administration will implement a policy that accommodates religious liberty while protecting the health of women.
· Nearly 99% of all women have relied on contraception at some point in their lives but more than half of all women between the ages of 18 and 34 have struggled to afford it. And the scientists and experts at the Institute of Medicine who first recommended covering contraception without a copay know that there are tremendous health benefits for women that come from using contraception.
· Earlier this year, we pledged to spend the next year working with institutions like Catholic hospitals and universities to find a solution that both protects religious liberty and ensures that every woman has access to the care that she needs.
· Under the new policy we are announcing today, women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services - no matter where she works.
· But if a woman's employer is a charity, hospital or other religious organization that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of its health plan, her insurance company - and not the hospital or charity - will be required to reach out and offer her contraceptive care free of charge.
· The result will be that religiously organizations won't have to pay or refer for these services or provide insurance coverage for these services to employees. And, as has been the case all along and consistent with existing conscience clauses, no religious institution will have to provide these services directly.
· At the same time, women who work at these institutions will have access to free contraceptive services, and will no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars a year that could be going towards rent or groceries.
· As previously announced, churches and houses of worship will be exempt from the requirement to provide coverage for contraception.
· President Obama listened to the concerns of religious organizations and took them seriously. The President began his career working with local churches that sometimes did more good for a community than a government program ever could. He understands how important the work is that faith-based organizations do.
· And he is committed to both preserving religious liberty and protecting women's health. This policy accomplishes these important goals.
· It is critical to note that the identification and inclusion of scientifically identified women's health benefits in any insurance plan is a huge step for millions of American women, who will finally have their health needs covered.
· It's also important to remember that doctors prescribe contraception for medical and health reasons, including helping to reduce the risk of some cancers, serious infections and cysts. And we know that contraception is a safe and effective way to prevent unintended pregnancies, which can be associated with an increased health risks for women. Yet many women skip contraceptive care because of cost.
· This is an issue where people of good will on both sides of the debate have been grappling to find a solution that works for everyone. With today's announcement, we have done that. Religious liberty will be fully protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against any woman, anywhere.
· The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to cover preventive services for women without charging a copay starting on August 1, 2012. These preventive services include well women visits, domestic violence screening, and contraception, and all were recommended to the Secretary by the independent Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science.
· Today, the Administration will issue final regulations that exempt churches and house of worship from covering contraception. The regulations also allow other religious organizations, including those that employ people of different faiths to qualify for a one-year transition period.
· The President also announced that the Administration will propose regulations during the transition year to require insurance companies to cover contraception whenever one of these religious organizations chooses not to.
· There is still more work to be done. The Administration will work with faith based organizations, insurers, and other interested parties to develop policies that respect religious liberty and ensure access to preventive services for women enrolled in self-insured group health plans sponsored by religious organizations.
· We will start in the coming days by convening a series of meetings with faith community leaders to explore solutions. And this policy will be developed collaboratively so that the ultimate outcome works for religious employers, their workers, and the public.