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Protest continues over Obamacare birth control mandate - abc27 WHTM

Protest continues over Obamacare birth control mandate

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Should religiously affiliated employers, like Camp Hill's Holy Spirit Hospital, be forced to provide birth control to employees?

The president, in his Affordable Care Act, says yes.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, appointed by President Obama, says not so fast. She issued a New Year's Eve stay to that birth control mandate for religious employers. She wants to further examine arguments on both sides, which pleases the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference.

"If the government thinks this is so important a service, let the government provide it directly," said Richard E. Connell, counsel for the Catholic Conference. "The government has the means to do it. It has the wherewithal to do it, and it should not force Catholic employers to violate their conscience."

Women's health advocates, like those at Planned Parenthood Advocates Pennsylvania, disagree.

"The Affordable Care Act guarantees that women have access to preventive care no matter where they work," said Meghan Roach of PPA. "If a religious organization doesn't want to pay for that coverage, they're able to be exempt from that and then the insurance companies will cover that cost."

Religious groups concede that they can sign a waiver that will kick the mandate to insurance companies. But they argue they're still funding those insurance companies, in part, and therefore supporting contraceptive coverage.

"The bishop was very clear saying, 'If you ask me to sign this form, it is morally and ethically offensive to me,' " Connell said.

Planned Parenthood counters that birth control is not just about preventing pregnancies.

"Almost 60 percent of women who use birth control, contraception pills do so for health reasons such as to prevent ovarian cysts or endometriosis," Roach said. "So there are reasons besides pure contraception that women should have access to those."

Religious groups insist that birth control does not fall under the category of required care necessitating insurance coverage, and besides, it is readily available and easily obtained.

Planned Parenthood counters that not all women can afford contraception, and all are entitled regardless of where they work or how much they make.

It is a small part of the much-larger ACA, but the birth control mandate piece is thorny nonetheless.

Caught in the middle is a justice that is uniquely qualified and perhaps terribly torn.

Sotomayor is both a woman and a Catholic.

Court observers she could vacate her New Year's Eve stay any day now, or she could keep it in place pending further legal action. 

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