Obama slams Romney over birth control issue

President Obama touted his healthcare law's birth control coverage mandate and criticized Mitt Romney for supporting a bill that would allow any employer not to follow it, prompting a tart response from the Republican nominee. 

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"A major difference in this campaign is that Gov. Romney feels comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the healthcare choices that women are making," Obama said in Tuesday night's debate. "I think that's a mistake."

The Obama policy requires most employers to cover a range of birth control methods without a copay in their health plans, with exemptions for some religiously affiliated groups such as churches.

Romney later fired back, saying, "I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives."

In the past, Romney has expressed support for the Blunt Amendment, a measure that would allow employers to refuse to cover healthcare benefits that violate their religious beliefs.

Obama's birth control mandate has been one of the most divisive components of his healthcare law. More than 30 lawsuits have been filed against it by religiously affiliated institutions and private employers who do not want their health plans to serve as vehicles for birth control methods they disagree with.

Romney opposes the mandate and has vowed to repeal Obama's healthcare law.

A campaign spokesman told the press in February that Romney "supports the Blunt bill because he believes in a conscience exemption in healthcare for religious institutions and people of faith."