White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Tuesday that the administration will work to allay the concerns of church-affiliated organizations over a new birth control coverage requirement, but he indicated that the administration doesn't plan to reconsider the requirement itself.
"We will be working with those organizations and individuals who have concerns" during the implementation period between now and August 2013, Carney said. Catholic universities and hospitals are among the organizations that have opposed a new rule requiring insurance policies to cover women’s contraceptive services.
"There are a lot of different ideas out there,” Carney said of possible White House flexibility on the rule. He added, "I'm not going to predict, because I don't know, all the various possibilities those discussions will entertain."
Carney didn't say if any new exemptions for church-affiliated organizations were under consideration. An exemption currently exists for churches and other houses of worship.
"The president's interest, at a policy level, is making sure that this coverage is extended to all women," Carney said.
Carney's comments came after White House adviser David Axelrod said on Tuesday morning that the administration is willing to work with Catholic universities and hospitals to make sure the new rules don't infringe on religious liberties.
“We certainly don't want to abridge anyone's religious freedom,” Axelrod said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. The president and the administration will move forward, "but with a grace period,” Axelrod said. Carney said that the "grace period" Axelrod mentioned was nothing new, and had been part of the implementation policy all along.
Both Axelrod and Carney noted that, while institutions like churches tend to employ people of the same faith, large organizations like hospitals tend to employ people of many faiths—including women who might not share the Catholic canonical opposition to artificial birth control.