Updated 05/21/2012 11:25 PM
NY Archdiocese To Fight Federal Birth Control Mandate In Court
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The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York is suing the federal government to block the controversial Obama administration policy that forces insurance plans at Catholic hospitals and universities to provide free birth control for workers.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Brooklyn on Monday, claims the Health and Human Services Department mandate is requiring religious employers to provide services that go against their constitutionally protected beliefs. Religious institutions across the country, including the University of Notre Dame, also joined in the suit.
Read New Yorkers' thoughts on whether providing birth control on insurance plans is a "government intrusion" into religious beliefs.
President Barack Obama changed the policy amid harsh criticism from religious leaders, shifting the responsibility of providing free preventive care from charities and hospitals with religious affiliations to insurance companies.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said the Catholic organizations' fundamental rights still hang in the balance.
"Are we going to have to do something that we find morally objectionable? Or are we going to have to give up our soup kitchens, our day care centers, our inner-city schools, our health care centers, because we are going to be required by the federal government to do something that we find morally repugnant?" Dolan said.
The new requirement does include an exemption for religious institutions, but Dolan said that exemption does not go far enough.
The suit claims Catholic institutions, like schools or hospitals, would have to prove how religious they are to qualify for the exemption.
"The federal government should not be in the business of qualifying what makes a religious exemption and what does not," said William Donohue of the Catholic League.
Representatives from pro-choice groups, like Planned Parenthood, say access to birth control improves the health of women and their families.
"They are willing to say no to the 98 percent of Catholic women who use birth control. This is very much out of step with the views from the pews. This is very much out of step with the vast majority of Americans," said Andrea Miller of NARAL Pro-Choice New York.
Speaking to reporters at an unrelated event Monday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg weighed in on the suit.
"It is a problem for the federal government to figure out how to make sure that the public gets the kind of services the public wants. The studies that I've seen say the vast bulk of the people, even Catholic women, use contraception," Bloomberg said.
New York State already requires insurance companies to provide birth control.
Other lawsuits objecting the mandate have been filed throughout the country.
A representative from the Obama administration says the White House does not comment on pending litigation.
White House officials did say that the insurer, rather than religious institutions, would be forced to pay for birth control.
Come November, Americans may be weighing on that issue in the ballot box.