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Contraception Mandate Still A Concern Among Religious Groups

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The final rule for a controversial federal mandate -- recently released with little fanfare -- is still being met with resistance from some in the religious sector. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued its final rule that now nearly all employers will have to provide coverage of contraceptives.

"The latest compromise says that essentially out and out religious organizations which have been always exempt, as well as organizations that have some religious affiliation would not directly have to provide it," says Leslie Kantor, a professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

For those that are considered non-profit religious organizations like religiously affiliated schools, contraception coverage for their employees would be covered through a third party administrator or directly by the insurance company.

HHS revised the mandate in answer to concerns voiced by religious groups. Kantor, who also heads up Planned Parenthood's sex education program, says the law will especially benefit those struggling financially.

"More than 90 percent of the women say that they used family planning at some point in their reproductive history. So we do fully expect that having birth control available with no co-pay will increase rates of contraception somewhat and therefore help with the unintended pregnancy rate," says Kantor.

Some religious groups though are not satisfied with this so-called compromise and are calling for more changes to the mandate.

"We are still analyzing it to some extent but it's clear it's still not good enough and really, frankly never will be. Because until government understands that religious liberty applies to all we are going to have a problem with this mandate," says NYS Catholic Conference Spokesman Dennis Poust.

Opponents of the mandate point to its impact on businesses without a religious affiliation, whose owners may morally object to the law.

There is no exemption for them.

"The government should not be in the position of determining which of our ministries are religious enough," notes Poust.

The mandate takes effect for most in 2014, though the debate is ongoing.

There are still dozens of challenges to the birth control mandate moving through the courts.

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