President Barack Obama's health care law will force religious employers to pay for birth control pills, including controversial drugs that can abort early pregnancies.
Church-affiliated hospitals, colleges, social service agencies, and other nonprofit institutions will have a year to comply with the federal law.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called the proposal a compromise.
"I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services," Sebelius said in a statement.
***Hannah Smith, senior counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, shared her insights on the birth control pill mandate on the CBN News Channel's Morning News, Jan. 24.
Some religious leaders are outraged.
"Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to buy a product that violates their conscience," New York Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, responded.
"This shouldn't happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights," he said.
The Catholic Health Association, which represents some 600 hospitals, also expressed disappointment.
"The challenge that these regulations posed for many groups remains unresolved," Sister Carol Keehan, president of the group, said. "This indicates the need for an effective national conversation on the appropriate conscience protections in our pluralistic society, which has always respected the role of religions."
For religious-affiliated employers, the requirement will take effect August 1, 2013, and their workers in most cases will have access to coverage starting January 1, 2014.