BUFFALO, NY - President Barack Obama may have averted an election year nightmare, by diffusing a bombshell debate over birth control.
Today the President proposed a compromise on the issue which inflamed staunch Catholics in particular.
His earlier plan would have required religiously affiliated employers, such as hospitals and schools, to provide full contraception coverage to female employees.
Opponents of the measure, including Catholic Cardinals and Bishops and Republican leaders, responded with intense anger.
Instead, the President now wants those workers to get free contraceptive coverage from health insurers, thus sparing religious based groups, morally opposed to paying for birth control, from having to do so.
The White House called it "an accommodation".
"I think it's a balanced approach," U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) told WGRZ-TV. "I think the President tried very hard to reach the goal that all American women have access to affordable birth control," Sen. Gillibrand said.
Gillibrand's fellow Capitol Hill democrat, Rep Kathy Hochul (NY 26th) praised the President, for deftly extinguishing the flames of a fiery debate.
"And he's worked hard to do this, to make sure there's an accommodation that allows religious institutions to maintain their core principles that are important to them, and upon which the government has no right to infringe," Hochul said.
Both Gillibrand and Hochul say the provision of free contraception coverage by health insurers should have no impact on rates for everyone else.
"Under the Health Care Act they'd be required to provide them for free regardless of who the employer is. There are certain services that are identified as being preventative, and those are required to be free anyhow," said Hochul.
"There would be less unintended pregnancies, so their costs actually go down," added Gillibrand. "So this is something that's going to be in the insurer's interest."
Earlier this week, Buffalo's Catholic Bishop Edward U. Kmiec told Two On Your Side the matter was one of religious liberty, for which there would be no compromise.
After the President announced his new proposal, we were told the Bishop was unavailable by a diocesan spokesman, who deferred to a statement (below) issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which he said was "fully-endorsed" by Kimiec.
Both Hochul and Gillibrand said the policy now being proposed by the President should be nothing new to residents of New York State.
"I think it's important to note that this has been in practice in New York State for over ten years," Hochul said.
Click on the video player to watch our story from Two On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Norm Fisher from Eden.
Click here to read Dave McKinley's latest blog.
Statement released Friday afternoon by The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
"While there may be an openness to respond to some of our concerns, we reserve judgment on the details until we have them," said Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of USCCB.
"The past three weeks have witnessed a remarkable unity of Americans from all religions or none at all worried about the erosion of religious freedom and governmental intrusion into issues of faith and morals," he said.
"Today's decision to revise how individuals obtain services that are morally objectionable to religious entities and people of faith is a first step in the right direction," Cardinal-designate Dolan said. "We hope to work with the Administration to guarantee that Americans' consciences and our religious freedom are not harmed by these regulations."
WGRZ-Tv, wgrz.com, AP