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Catholic groups take fight against Obama birth-control rules to court

Some 43 Catholic groups including Notre Dame are attempting to block rules in the new health-care law that require health insurance to provide access to birth-control services. 

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Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, has stated his support for the lawsuits. He is seen here at mass in St. Louis earlier this month.

Erik M. Lunsford/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/AP

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In a coordinated pushback against the Obama administration, 43 Catholic institutions filed a dozen lawsuits in federal courts across the country on Monday, charging that new federal rules requiring most religious employers to provide health insurance that includes birth-control services violates their fundamental right to religious freedom.

The lawsuits are asking federal judges to declare that new rules enacted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in January violate First Amendment protections of the free exercise of religion and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Under the new rules, most employers – including religious charities, hospitals, and universities – are required to provide their employees cost-free access to reproductive health-care services including sterilization, contraception, and some abortion-causing drugs.

Catholic organizations objected to the rules, arguing that they placed religious employers in the untenable position of subsidizing a mode of conduct that would violate their religious teachings and moral values.

“We have tried negotiation with the Administration and legislation with Congress – and we’ll keep at it – but there’s still no fix. Time is running out,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a statement applauding the litigation.

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