By Meghashyam Mali - 02/05/12 02:32 PM EST
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) pushed back against conservative criticism of new White House rules which would require religious organizations to provide insurance coverage for birth control, calling the attacks “too much hyperventilating.”
“This is not about abortion,” said O’Malley during an interview on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday. “It’s about covering contraception as part of the healthcare coverage, mandatory basic coverage.”
O’Malley, who said he was a Catholic, stressed that the decision was similar to rules already in place in much of the country. "28 states already require this and in Europe," he added.
The governor said this was not a case of government dictating to religous organizations.
“Well there is an exemption for churches themselves," he said. "An exemption does not necessarily extend to institutions like hospitals, to universities that employ people of all faiths.”
O'Malley said he did not believe the ruling would hurt Democrats with the Catholic vote.
"These same rules apply in countries like Italy which have overwhelming numbers of Catholics, yet we did not see the reaction in those countries to these sorts of things," he noted.
O'Malley said that he expected "some" opposition from members of the "Catholic hierarchy" but added that "most of those members of the hierarchy are already Republicans."
Republicans have launched strong attacks against the rule with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) saying that it “violates our Constitution.” “I would hope the administration would back up and take another look,” Boehner said Thursday.
GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has also attacked the decision, saying in a speech to supporters following Saturday’s Nevada caucuses that the Obama administration had "declared war on religious freedom in this country.”
"This is a decision so totally outrageous, an illustration of such radical secular ideology," Gingrich said.