Connecticut lawmakers on front line of contraceptive battle

When President Obama was blasted by House Republicans this week for including contraceptive services in the health care reform act’s mandate on preventive care for women, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., jumped to the president’s defense.

House Republicans say requiring religious hospitals and colleges to offer contraceptive benefits is a violation of religious freedoms. The Catholic Church, for instance, bans all means of contraceptives save for the “rhythm” method that avoids intercourse during the times a woman is most fertile.

The White House, however, is  trying to couch the argument for contraceptive services as a women’s health issue.

So are DeLauro and Blumenthal.

Shortly after House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Wednesday said he would try to overturn the White House’s ruling, DeLauro called the move “an assault on women’s health.”

She joined a group of female Democratic lawmakers who said in a quickly organized news conference that no person is being forced to use birth control and said churches are exempt from the mandate.

“As both a Catholic and an advocate of women’s health, I believe that these guidelines strike the necessary balance between increasing access to health care services for women while respecting the religious beliefs of all Americans'” DeLauro said.

Blumenthal held a similar news conference with Senate Democrats to defend Obama’s actions.

But Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, took a different tact.

He dashed a letter off to Health and Human Services Department Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking for more “flexibility” in the plan and for an extension of the exemption for churches to “religiously affiliated institutions.”

“Having heard the concerns from groups like the Catholic Health Association and other religiously affiliated organizations, from the Archbishop to parishioners of the religious community in my congressional district, I understand and support their concerns about this issue,” said Larson, who is Roman Catholic.

Other Democrats are quick to point out that up to 98 percent of Catholic women have used birth control in their lives.

While congressional efforts to overturn the president’s decision are likely to flounder, the president has given the GOP one more hot-button issue in this election year.