Partisan battle over contraceptives heats up

The furor is growing over a new Obama administration rule mandating that health insurance provided by employers - including religious organizations - cover birth control.

The Republican presidential candidates have been railing against the rule for days. And now, Congressional Republicans are picking up the baton -- vowing to try to overturn the rule if President Obama doesn't change it.

The two most powerful Republicans in Washington said they would introduce legislation to reverse the new birth control rule.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the rule "a huge mistake."

Dems fight back against GOP in contraceptive battle

The issue even brought House Speaker John Boehner to the floor for a rare speech -- fueling an already heated debate. "This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country," he said, "must not stand and will not stand."

The rule requires employers who provide insurance to cover birth control for women by August, if they don't already.

Churches are exempt. But religious-affiliated organizations like Catholic hospitals or universities are not.

And Republicans say that's unfair. "That may actually be the most offensive part of this whole idea," says Sen. Roy Blunt (R, Mo.), "(is) that you tell religious institutions you have to do things that are contrary to your faith principles."

Democrats say it's a matter of fairness for women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 99 percent of women who are sexually active will use birth control at some point - including 98 percent of Catholic women. And contraceptives can cost hundreds of dollars a year.

Democrats also note this is already law in 28 states. "We're talking about hospitals and universities that operate in the public space, often with public dollars, that would not be able to discriminate against their employees -- many of whom are not Catholic, not of the same religion," pointed out Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.

At the center of the storm: the White House -- looking for a way out of a messy election-year controversy.

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama's spokesman was peppered with questions on the rule, as the topic took over his press briefing. Press Secretary Jay Carney said at one point, "We want to work with all of these organizations to implement this policy in a way that is as sensitive to their concerns as possible."

To see the Nancy Cordes report, click on the video in the player above.

Was the White House taken aback by the backlash over the rule? CBS News Senior White House correspondent Bill Plante spoke with "C BS This Morning" co-host Charlie Rose about that:

  • Nancy Cordes On Twitter»

    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.

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