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Monday February 13, 2012 | 07:57 AM

(Note: Collins and Snowe said in interviews today that they still want to see the final details of the Obama administration's birth control rule before they are ready to completely endorse the change. See that Maine on the Hill blog post here.)

The move by President Obama on Friday to alter his rule requiring birth-control coverage, shifting the mandate from some religious-based employers directly to insurance plans, hasn’t satisfied the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and some other critics.

But Obama’s revised rule appears to have won over Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine. Both had called for changes to the original rule despite their support in the past for a bill with a similar objective.

“It appears that changes have been made that provide women’s health services without compelling Catholic organizations in particular to violate the beliefs and tenets of their faith,” Snowe said in a statement. “According to the Catholic Health Association, the administration ‘responded to the issues [they] identified that needed to be fixed,’ which is what I urged the president to do in addressing this situation."

“While I will carefully review the details of the president’s revised proposal, it appears to be a step in the right direction,” Collins said in a statement. “The administration’s original plan was deeply flawed and clearly would have posed a threat to religious freedom.  It presented the Catholic Church with its wide-ranging social, educational, and health care services, and many other faith-based organizations, with an impossible choice between violating their religious beliefs or violating federal regulations. The administration has finally listened to the concerns raised by many and appears to be seeking to avoid the threat to religious liberties posed by its original plan."

In 2001 Snowe authored and Collins co-sponsored a bill that prohibited insurance plans from excluding contraceptives from their prescription benefits.

There was no religious exemption in that bill as written, but Snowe indicated at the time that she would address that issue and a Collins spokesman says that Collins too favored a “conscience clause.” The bill didn’t advance that year after a Sept. 10, 2001 hearing. The same bill also was introduced by Snowe in 2005 and 2008, but did not receive a hearing, her office said.

 

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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