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Political fallout from birth control fight: A glimmer of good news for Obama?

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“Perhaps more important politically,” Allen added, “it has given Republicans something to talk about other than the economy, just when Obama’s gotten a lift from modest gains.”

Under the proposed new rule that Obama announced Friday, religiously affiliated institutions (such as hospitals and universities) will not be required to include free birth control in health insurance plans for female employees.

Instead, insurance companies will be required under the Affordable Care Act to provide contraception to all employees at such institutions free of charge – which may be a distinction without a lot of difference, or as one critic put it “an accounting gimmick.”

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, calls Obama’s latest move “a first step in the right direction.” Which implies that more steps will be demanded, as Archbishop Dolan puts it, in order to “to guarantee that Americans’ consciences and our religious freedom are not harmed by these regulations."

But Sister Carol Keehan, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, which represents hundreds of church-run hospitals and other facilities, was much more effusive in her response.

“The Catholic Health Association is very pleased with the White House announcement that a resolution has been reached that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions,” Sister Keehan said in a statement. “We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished.”

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