Catholic leaders in Maryland blasted the Obama administration for implementing a new rule requiring religious employers to offer health plans that cover contraceptives without co-pays or deductibles.
The Department of Health and Human Services stated that the new rule "ensures that women with health insurance coverage will have access to the full range" of all "FDA-approved forms of contraception." Nonprofit and religious employers have until Aug. 1, 2013 to comply with the new law.
Cardinal-designate Edwin F. O'Brien, leader of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, condemned the Obama administration's "shocking and disturbing decision" in a statement. O'Brien said the decision forces "individuals and religious organization to surrender their beliefs ... for the sake of political and financial expediency."
The Archdiocese of Washington called the rule an attack on religious freedom. In a statement, Washington Catholic organization stated:
"Until now, no federal law has required anyone to purchase, sell, sponsor, or be covered by a private health plan that violates his or her conscience. Under the HHS edict, however, virtually all Catholic charitable organizations, hospitals, schools, colleges and universities that want to provide for the needs of their employees and students in a manner consistent with Catholic moral teachings will be placed in the untenable position of having to choose between violating the law and violating their conscience."
Local Catholic church leaders at St. Margaret's Catholic Church in Bel Air and St. Francis de Sales in Abingdon were not readily available for comment Thursday morning.