The Obama administration announced in January it is moving forward with its new federal law mandating employers to include birth control and other reproductive services in its health care coverage.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines require health insurance plans beginning on or after Aug. 1, 2012 to cover several women's preventive services, including birth control, with no co-pay.
The Obama administration said in late January that most health insurance plans must cover contraceptives for women free of charge, and it rejected a broad exemption sought by the Roman Catholic Church for insurance provided to employees of Catholic hospitals, colleges and charities, reported the New York Times.
Federal officials said they would give such church-affiliated organizations one additional year — until Aug. 1, 2013 — to comply with the requirement. Most other employers and insurers must comply by this Aug. 1.
On the weekend of Jan. 28, Catholic churches from coast-to-coast, reported USA Today, echoed with scorn for a new federal rule requiring faith-based employers to include birth control and other reproductive services in their health care coverage.
Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the Obama administration had "drawn an unprecedented line in the sand" with the decision, reported The Pilot.
It was not known exactly how many churches addressed the issue. About one-third of America's 50 million Roman Catholics — more than 15 million — attend Mass once a week, says William D'Antonio, a sociologist at the Catholic University of America. However, in recent polls, about 95 percent of Catholics have said they use contraceptives and 89 percent say the decision to use them should be theirs, not the church's, he says.
Judy Waxman of the National Women's Law Center, says easier access to contraceptives could prevent unwanted pregnancies and cut down on the number of abortions. "This is such a major step forward for women in this country," she told USA Today.
Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, told The Pilot he was "extremely disappointed" that the administration chose to ignore calls from religious institutions to broaden the exemption.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America in a press release, said "covering birth control without co-pays is one of the most important steps we can take to prevent unintended pregnancy and keep women and children healthy."