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USCCB official: Mandate still violates religious liberty

WASHINGTON -- A revision in a federal health care mandate that would shift the payment of contraception and sterilization coverage from religious employers to health insurance companies still infringes upon religious liberty and must be addressed, said an official of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The mandate's narrow exemption for religious organizations and how the revision pertains to self-insured parties, like many dioceses and Catholic organizations, could still force entities morally opposed to contraception to pay for such services, said John Carr, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.

"The fact is we have to go back to the beginning," Carr told several hundred people during the opening session of the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering Feb. 12. "The best way to get out of this is to not get into it. We should not have the government deciding what's a ministry or not. We need the administration to revise it, we need the Congress to repeal it or we need the courts to stop it."

Bishops studying revised contraception mandate

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Following news that President Barack Obama has decided to revise a controversial mandate requiring contraceptive coverage in health care plans, several of the groups who expressed the most concern about the mandate are trying to sort out whether they will support the revision, while others have already rejected it outright.

An initial statement from the bishops’ conference said the conference was “studying” the revised mandate.

White House fact sheet regarding contraception mandate

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THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 10, 2012

FACT SHEET: Women’s Preventive Services and Religious Institutions

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most health insurance plans will cover women’s preventive services, including contraception, without charging a co-pay or deductible beginning in August, 2012. This new law will save money for millions of Americans and ensure Americans nationwide get the high-quality care they need to stay healthy.

Today, President Obama will announce that his Administration will implement a policy that accommodates religious liberty while protecting the health of women. Today, nearly 99 percent of all women have used contraception at some point in their lives, but more than half of all women between the ages of 18-34 struggle to afford it.

Obama expected to address contraception mandate

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President Barack Obama is expected this morning to address a controversial Department of Health and Human Services mandate regarding contraceptive coverage in health care plans, several news outlets are reporting.

The announcement comes after religious groups -- including a wide coalition of Catholic leaders -- denounced the mandate, which requires employers to provide preventive medical services for women, including contraception, to their employees.

Hawaii's contraception model has downsides, some say

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While the possibility of mandatory contraception coverage in health plans could become a new reality for many Catholic institutions under the recent ruling by the Department of Health and Human Services, dioceses in nearly 30 states have already faced contraception rules, reacting in various ways.

Currently, 28 states have laws requiring contraceptive coverage as part of health plans. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 20 of those states offer some type of exemption, a list including Arizona, New York, Maryland, Missouri and California.

Whether exemptions exist or not, Catholic groups in all 28 states can avoid the contraceptive mandate in one of three ways, says the U.S. bishops' conference. These include self-insuring prescription drug coverage, dropping that coverage completely or opting into a federal law that preempts any state mandates. Critics say the narrowness of the recent federal ruling would block religious groups from taking any of these avenues.

In Hawaii, contraception coverage has been on the books since 1999. Offering more leniency for religious groups, its mandate has been mentioned as a compromise to the federal HHS ruling.

Catholics unite in opposition to contraception mandate

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The Catholic community that was deeply divided over the passage of President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010 has found itself united in opposition to one provision in that landmark legislation.

A mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finalized in late January requires employers to provide preventive medical services for women, including contraception, to its employees. Though churches and certain religious employers would be exempt from the mandate, critics say that exemption is too narrow.

Obama administration went too far with contraception ruling

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It is time for the Obama administration to admit it overstepped a boundary when it issued a mandate requiring coverage for contraceptives under its health care reform measures with only a narrow exception granted for religious institutions.

At stake primarily is the moral issue tied up with the right of religious groups to refrain from acts they deem morally questionable. That point is inextricably linked to the politics of the moment -- the survival of this presidency, and with it, the health care reform that is set to provide coverage beginning in 2014 for the 42 million people who are currently uninsured.

The mandate, approved by the Department of Health and Human Services in January, requires that all health plans cover contraceptives and sterilization free of charge. A narrow exception was made for religious organizations that teach that contraception or voluntary sterilization is sinful, but only if they employ primarily or exclusively members of their own faith, exist primarily for the inculcation of religious values and provide their services primarily to members of their own faith.

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