Catholic Hospitals Object to Law's Free Birth Control

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Catholic hospitals may soon be required to provide birth control free of charge to their employees.

Some of the same Catholic hospitals who are now objecting to the free birth control, originally defied their bishops in support of the health care law.

President Obama's health care law expands preventative benefits for women. The administration wants birth control with no co-pays included.

There is a proposed conscience clause exempting those with religious objections, but it only applies to houses of worship.

"I call this the parish housekeeper exemption - that's about all it covers," said Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, the 600-member umbrella group for Catholic hospitals. "What we are trying to do is make workable the conscience protection the administration says it is willing to give."

Most Catholic hospitals do not cover birth control for their employees, Keehan said, but in some cases they are required to by state law. Doctors caring for patients at the hospitals are not restricted from prescribing birth control.

Polls show that Americans overwhelmingly support greater access to birth control.

A survey earlier this year by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute found that 89 percent of Catholic women favored expanding access to birth control for women who cannot afford it, with 8 percent opposed.

Birth control use is virtually universal in the U.S., according to the government.

The Health and Human Services Department is asking for public comment on its proposed conscience clause before making a final decision, expected later this year.

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