Obama rejects Roman Catholic Church plea for exemption from insurance covering birth control

The Obama administration said Friday 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.

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…

Since I’m a devout member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster can I get a similar one-year dispensation, say, from paying my income tax?

The rule takes a big step to remove cost as a barrier to birth control, a longtime goal of advocates for women’s rights and experts on women’s health.

In announcing details of the final rule on Friday, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said it “strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”

“Scientists have abundant evidence that birth control has significant health benefits for women,” Ms. Sebelius said, and “it is documented to significantly reduce health costs.”

Catholic bishops issued a statement saying…“Blah, blah, blah, bladiddy-blah, blah, blah!”

The 2010 health care law says insurers must cover “preventive health services” and cannot charge for them.

The new rule interprets this mandate. It requires coverage of the full range of contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Among the drugs and devices that must be covered are emergency contraceptives including pills known as ella and Plan B. The rule also requires coverage of sterilization procedures for women without co-payments or deductibles…

The administration said in August that it intended to require coverage of contraceptives for women, as recommended by an expert panel of the National Academy of Sciences. But the White House reconsidered the issue after hearing protests from the Catholic Church and many Republicans in Congress…

Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, described the final rule as a huge victory for women’s health. It will, he said, “ensure that women have access to full health care services, regardless of their employer, so they can make the best health choices for themselves and their families.”

Representative Lois Capps, Democrat of California, said, “The administration deserves credit for standing its ground and following the science.”

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the decision “means that millions of women, who would otherwise pay $15 to $50 a month, will have access to affordable birth control, helping them save hundreds of dollars each year.”

Per usual, fundamentalist religions say separation of church and state only applies to taxes.

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