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Catholics to fight birth control rules

A top American bishop said yesterday the Roman Catholic church will not comply with the Obama administration requirement that most employers provide health insurance covering birth control.

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said church leaders are open to working toward a resolution with federal officials, but will meanwhile press ahead with challenges to the mandate in legislatures and in court.

“The only thing we’re certainly not prepared to do is give in. We’re not violating our consciences,” Dolan told reporters at a national bishops’ meeting. “I would say no door is closed except for the door to capitulation.”

The bishops have been fighting the regulation since it was announced by President Obama early this year. Houses of worship are exempt, but religiously affiliated hospitals, charities and colleges are not.

Obama promised to change the requirement so that insurance companies, not faith-affiliated employers, would pay for the coverage. But details have not been worked out. And not only the bishops, but Catholic hospitals and some other religious leaders generally supportive of Obama’s health care overhaul have said the compromise proposed so far appears to be unworkable.

Dozens of Catholic dioceses and charities have sued over the mandate, along with colleges, including the University of Notre Dame. The bishops have made the issue the centerpiece of a national campaign on preserving religious freedom, which they consider under assault on several fronts from an increasingly secular broader culture. The Department of Health and Human Services adopted the rule as a preventive service meant to protect women’s health by allowing them to space their pregnancies.

It’s unclear what, if any, influence the bishops have with the administration.

Many bishops spoke out sharply against Obama during the election. The bishops said they were protesting policies, not the candidate. Obama won the overall Catholic vote, 50 percent to 48 percent, according to exit polls.

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