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White House Details Changes To Controversial Contraception Rule

Hospitals and organizations operated by religious institutions will not have to pay for or provide free contraception coverage to their employees, but the insurance companies that offer coverage to those workers will have to do that, White House officials just told reporters during a conference call.

They're explaining changes to a controversial plan the administration unveiled in recent days. The goal of the change appears to be to provide the coverage, but at the same time to not force religious groups to violate their principles.

President Obama is going to formally announce the changes later today.

As we said earlier, watch the Shots blog for much more.

Update at 12:20 p.m. ET. Obama On The Rule:

At the White House, President Obama just said that "no woman's health should depend on who she is or where she works or how much money she makes," and noted that "the overall cost of health care is lower when women have access to contraceptive services."

The new rule is "mindful of another principle," he said — "religious liberty."

Our original post:

Reports are popping up on various newssites that, as The Associated Press puts it, "President Barack Obama will announce a plan to accommodate religious employers outraged by a rule that would require them to cover birth control for women free of charge, according to a person familiar with the decision."

ABC News' Political Punch blog, which appears to have been ahead on this development, said earlier that sources say the plan "will be respectful of religious beliefs but will not back off from that goal, which many religious leaders oppose since birth control is in violation of their religious beliefs."

The New York Times reports that the administration:

"Seeking to rein in a runaway political furor over birth control and religious liberty, is set to announce a possible compromise on Friday that is meant to calm ire from the right about a new administration rule that would require health insurance plans — including those offered by Roman Catholic hospitals, universities and charities — to offer free birth control to female employees."

The White House has scheduled a 10:30 a.m. ET "background conference call" with reporters to talk about "women's preventative services and religious institutions." We'll be hearing from NPR correspondents about what's said and will update with the news.

And the Shots blog will be following the story throughout the day.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.