Freedom of Religion

The New York Times Reports That the Contraceptive Mandate Is a Phony Issue

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Since I faulted New York Times reporter Robert Pear the other day for reporting President Obama's spin on his contraceptive mandate as fact, I should acknowledge that he does better in his story on the subject in today's paper:

In February, after protests from the Roman Catholic Church and others, Mr. Obama announced what he described as "an accommodation" for church-affiliated schools, universities, hospitals and charities. They would not have to provide or pay for contraceptive coverage, but their female employees could obtain such coverage directly from the employers' insurance companies at no cost.

Republicans called this an accounting gimmick and said that religious employers would eventually bear the cost, in higher premiums.

Unfortunately, this explanation does not arrive until the 22nd paragraph. Much higher up, in the fourth and fifth paragraphs, there is this misleading gloss:

The politically charged fight heated up last month after the Obama administration unveiled its policy requiring health insurance plans to offer free contraceptives for women — a rule that provoked furious criticism from Roman Catholic institutions and some other religious groups. The administration quickly offered a revision that would force the health insurers — not the institutions — to bear the cost.

Still, Senate Republicans tried to seize on the uproar surrounding the administration rule and offered a Senate proposal that would allow a broad exemption for employers, framing it as a matter of conscience as much as contraception.

The clear import of this passage is that Obama lifted his requirement that religious organizations pay for birth control coverage, but Republicans kept complaining anyway for purely partisan reasons. Robert Pear (and/or his editors) may well consider this a phony issue, but he should not be saying that in what is supposed to be a straight news story.