President Barack Obama, announcing new rules on birth control coverage, said religious groups had expressed genuine concerns about his original plan but accused his opponents of using the issue as a political football in an election year.

Obama described religious liberty as an inalienable right that he cherished as a Christian. He said it became clear the original rule needed to be amended quickly because of resistance from Catholic hospitals and universities that did not want to provide contraceptive coverage to their workers.

After the many genuine concerns that have been raised over the last few weeks, as well as frankly the more cynical desire on the part of some to make this into a political football, it became clear that spending months hammering out a solution was not going to be an option, he said. He was describing the change whose details were fleshed out earlier by the White House.

The result will be that religious organizations won't have to pay for these services and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly, he said.