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December 22, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A broad cross section of top Catholic leaders, led by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), protested the Obama Administration’s birth control mandate in a full page ad that appeared yesterday in the Washington Post and New York Times.

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The ad, signed by hundreds of leaders of Catholic organizations, was the latest effort in a fight to overturn a rule issued earlier this year by the Department of Health and Human Services that would force employers to provide health plans that cover sterilization and all contraceptives, including drugs that induce early abortions. The rule includes a narrowly tailored religious exemption that would not apply to many Catholic employers, including many colleges and hospitals.

A brief statement included above the list of signatories said that the rule would compromise both religious freedom and access to health care, by forcing religious organizations “to either violate their conscience or severely curtail” health care services.

“It also harms society as a whole by undermining a long American tradition of respect for religious liberty and freedom of conscience,” the statement continued. “In a pluralistic society, our health care system should respect the religious and ethical convictions of all.”

The names of over 150 organizations appeared on the ad, and some 250 more supporting organizations are listed on the USCCB website. Signatories include lay associations, religious orders, colleges, and health care providers, as well as Most Rev. Jose Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles and chairman of the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services and Most Rev. Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and President of the USCCB.

Also included among the signatories was Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins, who has stirred controversy among opponents of the rule by proposing what some consider a dangerous compromise that would extend an exemption to more, but not all religious organizations.

In a letter to the Administration, Jenkins suggested that the religious exemption be re-written based on a criteria established in the Internal Revenue Code.  The Cardinal Newman Society slammed Jenkins’ proposal in a letter to federal health officials earlier this week, saying that it would leave many Catholic colleges unprotected.

The USCCB ad does not propose specific revisions of the rule, but calls for Congress, the Administration, and all Americans to work for a reform of the law.

In the past, the USCCB has advocated the passage of a Respect for Rights of Conscience Act that would effectively overturn the rule and ensure the rights of religious employers to provide health coverage consistent with their moral beliefs.

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