White House Touts Contraception Turnaround on Petition Site

Among the places the Obama Administration publicized its recent step back on a controversial rule requiring Catholic charities and other groups to supply birth control to female employees was the White House's online petition site We the People.

A few hours after President Obama announced he would soften the policy Friday, Cecilia Muñoz, director of Obama's Domestic Policy Council, responded to a We the People petition on the issue. Her post included statements praising the move from two Catholic organizations and from Planned Parenthood.

The contraception petition was one of only a handful of We the People petitions to reach the site's 25,000-signature threshold for an official response since that threshold was raised in October. The petition rocketed to more than 29,000 signatures between its creation Jan. 28 and Muñoz' response Feb. 10.

Obama's shift essentially amounts to putting the cost of birth control on insurers rather than on religious organizations that object to paying for it.

The administration's new media team launched We the People in September, modeled partly after a British government petition site and aimed at giving citizens another digital venue to challenge the administration.

The administration used its first petition response to announce a minor policy change on student loan payments. Some petitioners have criticized the site since then for mostly issuing pro forma responses that restate White House positions.

Among the only other petitions to see such a rapid stream of signatures was a December petition posted in opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the Protect Intellectual Property Act in the Senate.

Former federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra cited that petition as evidence citizens could be as engaged online in civic issues as in person during a farewell speech earlier this month at the Center for American Progress.

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