WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama didn’t just tweak the new requirement for religious employers to provide free birth control, he backed off completely.
That’s what Chris Wallace, host of FOX News Sunday, told WTOP on Friday.
“[The Obama administration] clearly did not anticipate the kind of blowback from Catholics, and a lot of other people, who don’t like the idea of government telling a religious institution that it has to provide health care coverage for a practice the religion considers sinful,” Wallace said. “The basic issue of government intrusion, … I think that’s going to be a continuing issue.”
On Friday, Obama abandoned his stand that religious institutions must provide health care that includes coverage for contraception. Instead, Obama put the onus on insurance companies.
Some say the move came after a fierce blowback from the Catholic Church and some members of Congress.
His decision means women who work for religious institutions can still get free birth control, but it will not be provided directly by their employer.
Wallace said Obama’s retreat may have diffused the immediate situation, but the underlying issue — big government mandates — remains.
The controversy comes amid the GOP race for a Republican presidential opponent, which incurred a dramatic shift this week when former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum unsettled former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney’s inevitability by winning three state contests, Wallace said.
“Big surprise that [Santorum] was able to win those three states,” Wallace said. “It really throws the entire Republican race up for grabs.”
There have been eight contests so far, Santorum has won four, Romney has won three and Gingrich has won one, Wallace said.
“Santorum could make the argument that if it’s one-on-one, it should be Santorum and Romney, and Gingrich should drop out,” Wallace said. “I think Romney still, if you had to bet on one, is the favorite, but much less so than he was a week ago.”