Jake Tapper of ABC News wrote a remarkable story last week revealing the players in the Obama administration’s internal debate on the contraception mandate.

According to Tapper, President Obama’s top advisers on the issue included Vice President Joe Biden, former White House Chief-of-Staff Bill Daley, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, former Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, White House Senior Advisers Valerie Jarrett and Pete Rouse, former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn, two U.S. Senators – and Planned Parenthood Federation of America CEO Cecile Richards:

The debate within the White House on this issue was, sources say, heated….

The policy was wrong, the two Catholic men, Biden and Daley [and also Panetta], argued, saying that the Obama administration couldn’t force religious charities to pay for something they think is a sin….

But Biden and Daley faced a strong group making the case for the rule within the administration….

The two sides couldn’t even agree about what they were debating. In the fall, Richards brought in polling indicating that the American people overwhelmingly supported the birth control benefit in health insurance. She also highlighted statistics showing the overwhelming use of birth control.

The Vice President and others argued that this wouldn’t be seen as an issue of contraception – it would be seen as an issue of religious liberty. They questioned the polling of the rule advocates, arguing that it didn’t explain the issue in full, it ignored the question of what religious groups should have to pay for….

The president ultimately sided with the rule’s advocates…..

Surprising to me was Richards’ unquestioned prominence at the White House. Why did the mainstream media not question an obvious benefactor of the contraceptive mandate being in on the conversation? Richards is truly in the inner circle. Pro-lifers knew Richards had influence, but to see in writing just exactly how much weight she carries is informative.

More from Bloomberg on the internal struggle, which does not specifically list Richards but does mention Planned Parenthood later in the piece:

Obama ended months of internal White House debate by siding with a group of mostly female advisers who urged him not to limit a health-care law mandate to provide contraceptives, even at the risk of alienating Catholic voters in November, people familiar with the discussions said….

Sebelius, a Catholic and a two-term governor of Kansas, was joined by several female Obama advisers in urging against a broad exemption for religious organizations.

Note that liberal feminists and the abortion lobby carried more sway with Obama than his higher ranking male advisers. Recall Barnes is a former Planned Parenthood Action Fund and EMILY’s List board member and also a former lobbyist for the Center for Reproductive Rights. We all know how tied into the abortion industry Sebelius is. Obama has surrounded himself with radical pro-abortion feminists.

More on Richards’ importance, from an Associated Press piece about Obama’s “accommodation”:

Before announcing the decision, Obama called [Sister Carol] Keehan [CEO of the Catholic Health Association], Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards and Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, head of the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops.

Here is an interesting aside. Seeking to explain why Obama’s original mandate didn’t fly, the Chicago Sun-Times says it was partially because Planned Parenthood and feminists were distracted…

Another part of the answer of why Obama backed down is that the women’s groups, the dependable White House allies, did not all have their acts entirely together to react quickly.

That’s in part because last week, when the trouble heated up, the groups were running what was a successful campaign to force the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation to back down and reverse its decision to ban funding for Planned Parenthood breast-cancer screenings.

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