U.S. gives church groups a year on birth control rule

WASHINGTON Fri Jan 20, 2012 3:03pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Friday ruled that religiously affiliated nonprofit organizations, including hospitals and universities, will have to offer birth-control coverage to women employees but gave the organizations an extra year to comply.

In a decision expected to draw opposition from religious conservatives, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a final rule requiring affiliated groups to provide a broad range of services, from implanted contraceptive devices to the morning-after pill. Many do not at present.

The government's decision does not apply to churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and some religiously-affiliated elementary and secondary schools, which remain exempt.

But it comes as a blow to the interests of some religious authorities.

When HHS first announced plans to adopt the birth control rule last August, it stirred protests from religious groups including the Roman Catholic Church that wanted the exemption to apply to a broader category of organizations. The Catholic Church holds contraception to be sinful.

The change, intended to reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions, is part of President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul, his signature domestic policy achievement, which is facing major challenges from the Supreme Court and Republicans this year as the president seeks re-election.

"This decision was made after very careful consideration, including the important concerns some have raised about religious liberty," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

"This proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services."

Religious-affiliated nonprofit organizations, many of which currently do not offer birth control coverage, have until August 1, 2013, to comply with the new rule. Other employers must begin covering the services from August 1, 2012.

(Reporting By David Morgan; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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Comments (4)
Tahuaya wrote:
I was raised in a Catholic family and I was one of nine siblings. That is what happens when parents do not practice birth control. My wife and I had two children and none of my siblings had more than three. I am willing to bet that all of us practiced birth control and I believe that almost all Catholics in the United States practice it too.

With seven billion people on earth, I believe it is a sin not to practice birth control and I believe the Catholic leadership is out of step with its membership.

Perhaps a lot of religeous conservative may be upset about this decision but I bet most of those conservatives also practice birth control.

The Obama administration is right on this issue.

Jan 22, 2012 3:34am EST  --  Report as abuse
naryso wrote:
Considering this regulation done by government bureaucrats applies to the morning after pill which can and does cause an abortion in cases where the woman is pregnant, I do not see how it can stand under Constitutional law.
Either the Constitution is the highest law in the land or government bureaucrats regulations are. Choose carefully, these decisions have consequences – they set precedent on other Constitutional rights.

Jan 22, 2012 1:54pm EST  --  Report as abuse
wingMan wrote:
Perhaps the author can explain how it is that Kathleen Sebelius is deciding how much religious liberty citizens have? Is she qualified to make this decision? Is there an appeals process? I thought we had a constitution, a legislature, and courts to make these decisions instead of a single bureaucrat.

Jan 22, 2012 8:35pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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