Pope talks abortion, immigration at first Obama meeting

by Tangi Quemener, Jean-Louis de la Vaissiere, Yahoo News-AFP  |  published on March 28, 2014

Vatican City (AFP) – Pope Francis on Thursday defended the Catholic Church’s anti-abortion stance and discussed immigration reform at a historic first meeting with President Barack Obama, whose health law has incensed Catholic leaders.

The Vatican said the two sides had discussed “the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection”, foiling White House hopes of public Vatican support for Obama’s anti-poverty agenda.

The Affordable Care Act has raised hackles and accusations of infringing religious freedoms because it requires private employers to provide health insurance including for certain forms of contraception.

Christian American employers have challenged the law in the Supreme Court and a ruling is expected in June, with the nine-member court appearing divided between liberal and conservative judges on the issue.

Controversy over “Obamacare” and the president’s drop in popularity risk causing a Republican victory in this year’s mid-term congressional elections, which would weaken the US leader for his remaining two years in power.

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