Boehner threatens congressional showdown on birth control

House Speaker John Boehner announced during a floor speech this week that he would take legislative action against a federal decision requiring insurance companies to cover contraception as a preventive service if the Obama administration does not reverse course.

Boehner, R-Ohio, sided with a group of religious leaders who say the federal birth control requirement is an affront to religious freedom. Talking Points Memo reports:

“If the president does not reverse the Department’s attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must,” Boehner said. “This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country cannot stand, and will not stand.”

The Speaker said the House would take matters into its own hands with committee hearings and legislative action to push back if the administration declines to act.

“In the days ahead, the House will approach this matter fairly and deliberately, through regular order and the appropriate legislative channels,” Boehner said. He called on the Energy & Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the issue, to take steps against the rule and “consider all possible options.”

Following Boehner’s announcement, Democratic Reps. Rosa DeLauro, Jan Schakowsky, Lois Capps and Gwen Moore held a conference call to publicly denounce Boehner’s threat.

DeLauro said during the call that the federal decision is “going to reduce unintended pregnancies” and “gender discrimination in insurance policies.” She said the White House made a “profoundly moral decision” in requiring contraception coverage for health insurers.

Schakowsky said that religious groups providing health care that are opposed to the decision should not be fighting the requirement. ”If they want to be part of the business world,” she said, “they need to follow the same rules.”

“Health care should not depend on who the boss is,” Schakowsky said.

Moore said she found it striking that “most of the opinions we hear against this ruling are from men.” She also said that religious leaders are using their “bully pulpit” to create a ”distortion” on the issue of the separation of church and state.

Capps said the issue of birth control issue is not as ”divisive as some would make it out to be.” All the representatives defending the requirement noted that even in the religious community, women and men support access to birth control.

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