Compromise on White House contraception rule?

The White House is trying to cool off a heated controversy over a new Obama administration rule which requires all employers, including religious institutions, to cover birth control as part of their employee health insurance.

Some Roman Catholic groups are threatening lawsuits over the policy, saying it interferes with religious freedom.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Tuesday, "We're going to continue to work with religious groups to try to allay their concerns as we implement a policy that provides this coverage to women across the country."

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, who's a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, and faith and religion contributor the Rev. Edward Beck discussed the controversy on "CBS This Morning."

When asked if compromise is possible, Gerson responded, "It's difficult to compromise on this kind much issue, hard to grant half of a constitutional right. The question here is whether religious institutions will be forced to buy an insurance product that violates their conscience. That either happens or it doesn't happen. There might be some things that you can do around it. But the administration is not conceding the central point here. They believe that churches have religious liberty rights. But they think that religious institutions like hospitals and charities and universities should be treated under federal law like a 7-Eleven or an Apple store. I think that's resented by the institutions themselves. It's really a binary choice they have here, whether to retreat or not."

He continued, "(This) represents in a lot of ways an important political philosophic debate -- not a debate about contraception. It's how you view liberalism. Classical liberalism ... was the protection of individuals and groups and their rights not to reflect the majority views. Modern liberalism in this sense seems to be the imposition of liberal values on institutions that are regarded as backwards. I think that's the opposite of pluralism and it's provoked an understandable and natural reaction among not just Catholics, but I think Protestants and others who care about religious liberty."

A conscience clause that would make religious institutions exempt, Beck said, would "definitely" work. Beck said he's hearing a lot of discussion about Plan B, the so-called "morning after pill."

"Catholics are coming to me saying, 'Father, is this abortion, though? You have a fertilized egg. (An exemption is) also going to have to cover that," he said. "It's being called this contraception controversy. But really this is after conception some are saying and less is getting spoken about that. That is getting the ire of Catholics up."

The issue, Beck said, is likely to affect President Barack Obama's political maneuvering because of the election ahead.

"There's going to be a compromise because we know President Obama needs the Catholic vote," Beck said. "He lost Catholic men in the last election. He can't afford like in Ohio, Pennsylvania, to come that close or lose the Catholic vote. There are Catholics who think contraception should be covered here who don't like the fact that it's demanded of the church. ... Why do it now, anyway? It's a crucial time. I can't get an answer as to why this is the time this is brought up. Wait until after the election at least."

For more discussion on this controversy with Gerson and Beck, watch the video in the player above.

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