Updated 1:05 p.m.: Timothy M. Kaine praised President Obama’s announcement Friday that he would alter his administration’s new rule requiring religious institutions to pay for employees’ prescription contraceptives, four days after Kaine said he disagreed with the initial policy.
Kaine — the former Democratic National Committee chairman now locked in a tight Senate race — was one of the first prominent Democrats this week to criticize the Obama administration for its handling of the issue, a notable break given Kaine’s closeness to the president.
Bowing to pressure from fellow Democrats like Kaine as well as religious groups, Obama said Friday that women working for religious institutions could seek contraceptive coverage directly from their insurers rather than their employers. In a statement issued by his campaign, Kaine lauded the compromise.
“I am pleased that the White House has taken further steps to ensure that all women have access to affordable contraception and to ensure that religious organizations will not be asked to violate their beliefs in the process,” Kaine said.
“There are some who have wrongly used this debate to pit women’s rights against freedom of religion. The steps taken by the White House show that there is a way to respect both. From the day the new regulations were announced, I’ve encouraged the White House to find a better solution that embraces and protects both access to contraception and religious freedom, and I am proud to support the new steps announced today.
In an op-ed published Friday in the Loudoun Times-Mirror, before Obama announced the change, Kaine — a Catholic who speaks often about the importance of his faith — reiterated that while he agreed with the overall policy requiring employers to cover prescription contraceptives, the rule’s exemption for religious employers “is too narrow. It needs to be expanded so that church hospitals, social service agencies and schools are not forced to violate religious doctrine.”
Kaine’s expected Republican opponent in the Senate race, former Virginia governor George Allen, was a strong critic of Obama’s initial rule on birth control. His campaign had not responded to a request for comment on the new policy as of this posting.