By Alicia M. Cohn - 02/06/12 04:52 PM EST
Mitt Romney launched a petition on Monday against a new Obama administration mandate that will force employers, including religious institutions such as Catholic schools, to provide health insurance covering contraception.
Romney blasted the recently announced requirement as part of a series of “attacks on religious liberty” by the administration.
“If you’ve had enough of the Obama Administration’s attacks on religious liberty, stand with me & sign the petition,” he wrote on Twitter.
Obama’s reelection campaign immediately pushed back with a tweet from deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, who said Romney’s policies as governor of Massachusetts were “identical” to those of the administration.
“@mittromney sends petition [against] Obama admin decision on birth control,” Cutter tweeted. “Hope petition signers don't find out Mitts MA policies are identical.”
Ben LaBolt, Obama’s campaign press secretary, re-tweeted Cutter.
Romney and other GOP presidential candidates are ramping up attacks on what they say is an assault on religious liberty by President Obama.
The rule that religious organizations must provide contraceptive coverage for their employees has been ripped by the Catholic Church and prominent Catholic politicians, and is threatening to become a political problem for Obama during his reelection bid.
High-profile Republicans including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have blasted the new mandate as “unconstitutional,” and priests in a number of parishes earlier this month read a protest of the decision from Catholic bishops.
Their criticism stems from the fact that under the new rule, religious institutions that might oppose contraception, such as Catholic universities and hospitals, will have to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees. Churches are exempted from the policy.
The new attack from Romney suggests the debate could be an issue in the presidential race.
The White House reaffirmed the rule in January, and White House press secretary Jay Carney defended it last week.
“I don’t believe there are any constitutional rights issues here,” Carney said. “I understand that there’s controversy and we understand that and we will continue to work with religious groups to discuss their concerns.”