WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House said Monday legislation in the Senate that would give employers broad leeway to restrict coverage for contraception is "dangerous and wrong."
Press secretary Jay Carney took aim at legislation by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. - a possible GOP vice presidential candidate - and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., that would allow any employer to deny birth control coverage if it runs counter to their religious or moral beliefs.
Another bill, by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., would go even further by allowing health plans to deny coverage for any service that violates their beliefs.
Both approaches are far more expansive than allowing conscience protections just for churches and church-affiliated employers. President Barack Obama stirred up the issue recently by trying to get religious-affiliated employers like Catholic hospitals to provide free birth control coverage to their employees. The president bowed to intense opposition last week and declared that such coverage would be provided by insurance companies instead.
Carney said both the Rubio and Blunt bills take "absolutely the wrong approach." He said it's vital for women no matter where they work to have access to free preventive care, including birth control.
Alex Conant, spokesman for Rubio, responded that, "The Obama administration is willing to violate religious liberties with its federal takeover of health care. It's clear that legislation is needed to protect these important constitutional freedoms from federal overreach."