The Obama administration held onto the support of women's groups on Friday with its plan to accommodate religious charities that did not want to pay for contraception in their health plans.
Several women's groups said the plan addresses their bottom-line concern: that all women will still be able to get contraception without having to make co-pays.
“In the face of a misleading and outrageous assault on women’s health, the Obama administration has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring all women will have access to birth-control coverage, with no costly co-pays, no additional hurdles, and no matter where they work," Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “We believe the compliance mechanism does not compromise a woman’s ability to access these critical birth-control benefits."
The White House briefed a number of women's groups in a conference call on Friday morning.
"The most important thing is that the administration is ensuring that every woman who needs coverage for contraception can have it," said Sarah Lipton-Lubet, policy counsel at the Washington American Civil Liberties Union. "And that today’s announcement really should put to rest any so-called controversy that was out there."
Women's groups were particularly heartened that the proposal would allow all women to get contraception coverage seamlessly, through their normal health plan. Some states that have crafted mandate exceptions for religious employers have required that women buy separate policies if they want coverage for birth control.
"I think, overall, this is a really good development," said Laura MacCleery, the government-relations director at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "As long as the access remains as seamless as the administration intends it to be, it's a fine accommodation."
Jessica Arons, the director of the women's health and rights program at the liberal Center for American Progress, said the policy was well-crafted to address the concerns of women's health advocates.
"It's not going to be a carve-out. It's not going to be a rider. It's part of the health plan they get," she said. "It checks every box on the women’s health side."
But several groups cautioned that the devil may be in the details. They said they will be watching closely as the White House rolls out language for the final rule to make sure it does not impose barriers for women seeking coverage for contraception.
Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, said that the plan, as described on Friday, "definitely satisfied me." But she'll be watching closely in the months ahead.
“It is very important to us that you not stigmatize the women who work for these hospitals, universities, and nonprofit organizations,” O’Neill said. “It really matters how they implement it."
Sophie Quinton contributed