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From the Republican presidential candidates to top GOP lawmakers in Washington, party leaders are engaging in a full-court press against the Obama Administration's decision to force employers affiliated with religious groups to offer health care insurance plans to workers that cover birth control free of charge, even if the action contradicts the employer's religious beliefs.
In a rare move for someone in his office, House Speaker John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, took to the floor of the chamber on Wednesday to discuss a legislative plan to overturn the decision. Calling the rule "an unambiguous attack" on faith-based groups, Boehner said the House would begin work on a bill immediately.
"If the president does not reverse the department's attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people, and the Constitution that we're sworn to uphold and defend, must," Boehner, a Catholic, said. "The House will approach this matter fairly and deliberately through regular order and appropriate legislative channels."
Boehner said that the chamber's Energy and Commerce committee will take the lead in drafting the legislation to overturn the decision.
Last month, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that certain faith-based groups would have one year to comply with the requirement, enacted when Congress passed a federal health care overhaul in 2010. "Nonprofit employers who, based on religious beliefs, do not currently provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance plan, will be provided an additional year, until August 1, 2013, to comply with the new law," Sebelius said in the statement.
The rule still exempts houses of worship from having to provide insurance that offers free contraceptives, but it applies to non-profit organizations funded by churches, including universities, hospitals and charities. The decision not to exempt those groups has resulted in an uproar from religious groups--particularly the Catholic Church--who say the federal mandate to pay for birth control infringes on their religious beliefs.
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