The administration says women must be able to get free birth control.
Federal officials said they would give such church-affiliated organizations one additional year — until Aug. 1, 2013 — to comply with the requirement. Most other employers and insurers must comply by this Aug. 1…
In announcing details of the final rule on Friday, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said it “strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”
“Scientists have abundant evidence that birth control has significant health benefits for women,” Ms. Sebelius said, and “it is documented to significantly reduce health costs.”
…Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the decision “means that millions of women, who would otherwise pay $15 to $50 a month, will have access to affordable birth control, helping them save hundreds of dollars each year.”
Religious leaders are upset, saying exceptions geared toward them are too narrow to be meaningful.
The rule includes an exemption for certain “religious employers,” including houses of worship. But church groups said the exemption was so narrow that it was almost meaningless. A religious employer cannot qualify for the exemption if it employs or serves large numbers of people of a different faith, as many Catholic hospitals, universities and social service agencies do.