Federal birth control ruling upsets religious groups

Catholic Relief Services in Baltimore said it "strenuously objects" to the Obama administration's action. The group hopes the administration will consider over the next year how the decision will hurt it and other organizations.

Good Samaritan Hospital retains its religious affiliation but is part of a non-church-related system, MedStar Health.

"The benefit is already extended to all employees," said Johnny R. Hagerman, a MedStar spokesman. "The new mandate doesn't affect us. The religious affiliation doesn't extend to human resources."

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the state's largest health insurer, provides for oral contraceptives under its standard benefit offerings, a company spokesman said. Religious organizations have always been given the option of covering or not covering oral contraceptives, and CareFirst will comply with all mandated requirements, the spokesman said.

Thomas J. Reese, director of the Woodstock Theological Center's Religion & Public Policy program at Georgetown University, said time won't help churches reconcile their beliefs with their legal obligations.

"It is a big deal because they feel that the regulations would force them to violate their consciences and their religious beliefs by paying for contraceptive coverage in the health plans since they believe that the use of contraceptives is immoral," he said. "They are not saying that contraceptives should be illegal or that people should not be allowed to purchase them. They are saying that they should not be forced to pay for their coverage in the health plans of their institutions."

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