White House: Obama Mandate “Violated” Religious Rights

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 13, 2012   |   4:42PM   |   Washington, DC

Freudian slip or candid omission? The full transcript of an interview White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew gave to Fox News Sunday yesterday gained most of its attention for Lew not backing down on Obama’s revised mandate.

However, Joel Gehrke of the Washington Examiner noticed that Lew made one mistake — or admission — about the original mandate Obama put forward that drew significant condemnation because of its clear violations of First Amendment religious rights.

“No institution that has — non-profit institution — that has religious principles that we violated has to pay for or directly offer these services,” Lew said. “But women have access to the kinds of care that they are entitled to.”

Below is the full transcript of the Lew interview with Chris Wallace: https://www.foxnews.com/on-air/fox-news-sunday/2012/02/12/jack-lew-defends-compromise-birth-control-mandate-sarah-palin-rates-gop-field?page=2#ixzz1mIR5m9ML

WALLACE: And, Mr. Lew, welcome to “Fox News Sunday.”

JACK LEW, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Good to be here with you, Chris. Thanks.

WALLACE: Before we get to the president’s new budget and I promise we will, I want to clear up some lingering question about the president’s revised policy about providing health insurance coverage for birth control to the employees of religious institutions. The president now says that Catholic institutions don’t have to provide the coverage but the insurance companies do.

The question — where does the president get the power to tell a private company they have to offer a product and offer it for free?

LEW: Well, Chris, just to be clear — the president has the authority under the Affordable Care Act to have these kinds of rules take affect. And the issue with this being for free is quite an interesting one. If you look at the cost of providing health insurance, it actually doesn’t cost more to provide a plan with contraceptive coverage than it does without.

So, from the insurance companies’ perspective —

WALLACE: Why not?

LEW: Because if you were looking at the actuarial projection, the cost of the plan, it costs more to provide a plan without than it does with. This is one of those —

WALLACE: But let me — let me just —

LEW: — very rare cases where it actually does not cost the insurance company money to do it.

WALLACE: But contraceptives cost money, pills, with sterilizations, hundreds of dollars, in fact, for a year.

LEW: To the extent that you look at the cost just on its own, you’re right.

But if you look at the overall cost of taking of care of the health of a woman, it doesn’t raise the cost of the plan.

What the president did here was consistent with where he’s been all along. He has a very deep belief of every woman’s right to all forms of preventive health care, including contraception. He also has a very deep belief — it is one of the core principles of our country, that we have respect the religious liberties that this country is built on. The solution that we reached is consistent with those core principles. That’s why he got the support of a range of groups, from the Catholic health association and Catholic charities, to Planned Parenthood.

We think that this is something that should put this issue to rest. The president was expecting this policy to be reached over a longer period of time. We said it would take a year or 13 months to transition. We put it out in a much quicker time frame because clearly, it wasn’t helpful to have it lingering out there.

I think a lot of good work was done and hopefully this will now set the issue to rest.

WALLACE: Well, and there are a couple of points on that. First of all, the savings that you talked about that allowed insurance companies to provide it for free. That’s because of avoided pregnancies, correct?

LEW: Well, there’s a whole range of issues, from the health of the woman because some, there are aspects to taking care —

WALLACE: But you’re not solving breast cancer by —

LEW: No, there are many health conditions in woman that are affected by whether or not contraception —


WALLACE: But here’s my point and here’s the concern that some religious institutions have. The reason that you’re going to get these, quote, “savings” is because of avoided pregnancies from artificial birth control, which is the practice that these religious institutions find objectionable and, in fact, sinful in the first place.

LEW: But let’s just be clear: every woman has a right to access all forms of preventive health, including contraception. Religious institutions, churches, are not covered by this. So, they don’t have to provide. The issue was —


WALLACE: Religious institutions, too.

LEW: Catholic universities —

WALLACE: Right, and Catholic charities.

LEW: — and many employees that are not Catholic, as well as Catholic employees. And this is a solution that actually works, that they are not providing, so they’re not offering, they’re not paying for it. And women have the choice on their own.

So, we think it’s is consistent with the principles that the president set out.

WALLACE: You say it’s consistent. The Catholic bishops are clearly not satisfied with it — if I may, sir. They have issued a statement that says that they view the decision by the president, the revision, with grave moral concern.

Let’s put up their statement on the screen.

“Today’s proposal involves needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion — government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions.”

And, sir, they call on Congress to block the president’s policy.

LEW: No, I think the president’s policy does not do that. It does not force an institution that has religious principle to offer or may for benefits they find objectionable. But it guarantees a woman’s right to access. We think that’s the right solution.

There are others who opposed women’s access to contraception. They have different views than we do. I’m not going to speak to the motives of any of the parties. But it’s quite significant that a range of Catholic organizations has embraced this.

We didn’t expect to get universal support of the bishops or all Catholics. I think that what we have here is a policy that reflects bringing together two very important principles in a way that’s true to the American tradition. And that’s what the president is trying to do.

There are others who want to have a clash over it. We want to bring these two principles together.

WALLACE: But you say you’re not going to get universal support. There are others — this is the conference of Catholic bishops. This is the most powerful statement by the Catholic Church in this country. They deal with grave moral concern and they say it should be turned around.

LEW: I can’t speak to the differences within the Catholic Church.

WALLACE: How do you respond to their statement that this government coercion?

LEW: I would point to the statement put out by the Catholic Health Association, which knows a fair amount about what it requires to health care in this country. They thought this was a very good solution. They understand what the policy is.

WALLACE: So, the bishops —


LEW: I think our policy is the right policy. I think that there’s broad support, but they’re not universal support for it. And we think this is right way to go.

WALLACE: So, you’re not going to change despite what the bishops say.

LEW: Our policy is clear.

WALLACE: Your policy is clear. Meaning, no revisions to the revisions?

LEW: We have set out our policy.

WALLACE: And that’s it?

LEW: We’re going to finalize it in the final rules. But I think what the president announced on Friday is a balanced approach that meets the concerns raised both in terms of access to health care and in terms of protecting religious liberties. And, you know, we think that that’s the right approach.

WALLACE: Mr. Lew, I think it’s fair to say this is precisely why so many people and I understand, you can argue whether it’s the majority or minority — but why so many people are opposed to Obamacare, because they are concerned with the idea that the government can mandate what people have to do, what private businesses have to do, what even religious institutions have to do.

LEW: I think the notion that this is about should we provide basic health care to all Americans is not the issue. You know, there are differences to whether or not the Affordable Care Act is the right approach. We think providing coverage to tens of millions of Americans and making sure that we have a health care system that provides the kind of care that people need that will help drive down the cost of health care in this country is a very important thing.

This is — this question of the impact on religious institutions is something we took very seriously right from the start. That’s why when the policy was announced, we said it would take 13 months to transition it in a way that would be respectful of those differences.

So, I think we’ve addressed that. I think that this concern is one that people can disagree, you know, on the margins about. But we have addressed the core issue — no institution that has, non-profit institution that has religious principles that we violated has to pay for or directly offer these services. But women have access to the kinds of care that they are entitled to.

We think that’s the right approach.