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Obama offers faith groups new birth-control rule

By The Associated Press

This article was published February 1, 2013 at 12:42 p.m.

— The Obama administration Friday proposed a work-around for religious nonprofit groups that object to providing health insurance that covers birth control.

The government’s new regulation attempts to create a barrier between religious groups and contraception coverage, through insurers or a third party, that would still give women free access to contraception. It wasn’t immediately clear whether would accept the new approach, or whether it would stem the tide of lawsuits across the country that have challenged the requirement to provide such coverage.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had no immediate reaction, saying it was studying the regulations. Policy analyst Sarah Lipton-Lubet of the American Civil Liberties Union said the rule appeared to meet the ACLU’s goal of providing “seamless coverage” of birth control for the affected women.

In its new rule, the Department of Health and Human Services argued that the change wouldn’t impose new costs on insurers because it would save them money “from improvements in women’s health and fewer child births.”

The regulation is part of President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, known as the Affordable Care Act. The birth-control rule, first introduced a year ago, became an election issue, with advocates for women praising the mandate as a victory and religious leaders decrying it as an attack on faith groups.

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