Both sides still see political opportunity in birth control rule

While the logistics of the Obama administration's new rule requiring free birth control coverage as part of healthcare plans seemed to have been sorted out late last week, the political scuffle that the rule sparked shows no sign of fading.

Both sides on the issue appear determined to keep it at the forefront of voters' minds during the run-up to this year’s presidential election. Republicans on Capitol Hill are threatening to force a vote to repeal the rule, while the pro-choice group NARAL is out this morning with a new radio ad hailing President Obama for "making sure women of all faiths, no matter where they work, can get contraceptive coverage."

GOP Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri has written legislation to undo the new policy, which was initially presented by the administration as a requirement that most employers, including Catholic hospitals and universities, offer free birth control as part of their healthcare plans.

After an uproar from Catholic groups, the administration on Friday announced that it would adjust the rule to require that insurers, rather than the employers who sponsor health insurance plans, offer and pay for the coverage.

The tweak to the rule was met with instant praise by some but failed to win the support of all, most notably the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Over the weekend, the conservative group For America gathered 43 prominent conservatives to form a "united front to battle Obama HHS regulations." And Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky declared that the issue "will not go away until the administration simply backs down."

Blunt spoke this morning at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, about how "Obamacare tramples on religious liberty."

Meanwhile, NARAL Pro-Choice America also seized on the new rule with a radio ad that is scheduled to air in Denver; Orlando, Fla.; northern Virginia and Madison, Wis., according to Politico. The ad features a fictional conversation between a woman and her pharmacist. The woman asks how much she owes for her birth control prescription. The pharmacist tells her there’s no charge.

"Thanks to President Obama, the 99% of women who use birth control in America could now hear this same message," a voice says. "You see, we scored an important victory when the president stood up for our healthcare and guaranteed insurance coverage of birth control at no cost … But extremists in Congress are trying to change the policy by making it harder for women to get birth control with no co-pay."

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