February 16, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Sisters of Life, a group of Catholic nuns who take a sacred vow to “protect and enhance the sacredness of human life,” say they don’t fall under the narrow religious exemption under the Obama administration’s new insurance mandate, meaning the rule would force them to break their promises to God.

“This mandate will gravely violate the individual and collective religious liberties of the Sisters of Life and millions of others by forcing us to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and artificial contraception against our conscience,” said the sisters in a statement Thursday.

The religious order said that their special fourth vow is “at the heart of our identity as a religious community, and is a profound expression of the religious and spiritual commitment of each of our Sisters. This new rule pays no heed to our right to live according to our vows.”

“Since we are neither employers, nor employees, of any religious institution, we cannot even take advantage of the ‘religious exemption’ contained in the new regulations or the ‘compromise,’” the sisters said. “As a result, this mandate would coerce each and every individual Sister of Life to betray her religious vows. ...

“To us, it would be comparable to a law requiring a spouse to violate their marriage vows — an unthinkable intrusion upon a sacred promise.”

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The Sisters of Life were founded in 1991 by Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, a forceful opponent of abortion.

The religious group numbers among countless Catholic universities, hospitals, and charities that are not covered by the religious exemption in the mandate. President Obama last Friday said he would “adjust” the mandate by forcing health insurers to offer religious employees birth control for “free,” a move criticized by Catholic groups, including the U.S. bishops, as vastly inadequate.

Although the Sisters said they are proud of their American heritage, “now we are faced with a government decision that is not only a grave affront to the religious liberty and rights of conscience of every citizen of the United States, but also an offense to each Sister of Life in a particular way.”

“The only just solution to this infringement of rights is to rescind the HHS rule,” they write.

“We call upon members of Congress and the Executive Branch to reverse this decision as soon as possible, and we invite our fellow citizens to join with us in prayer and fasting that our Nation may be protected from this great threat against liberty.”

Read the Sisters’ full statement here.