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    Catholic groups ask court to halt health care law

    5:32 PM, Dec 31, 2013   |    comments
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    WASHINGTON (AP) - Catholic organizations made a last-minute effort Tuesday to get the Supreme Court to block portions of President Barack Obama's health care law that will force them to provide health insurance for students and employees that includes birth control.

    Several organizations, including the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, the Catholic Diocese of Nashville, Catholic University and the Michigan Catholic Conference, asked justices to block the law until their arguments are heard. Parts of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, go into effect on Wednesday.

    On that day, "a regulatory mandate will expose numerous Catholic organizations to draconian fines unless they abandon their religious convictions and take actions that facilitate access to abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization for their employees and students," lawyer Noel J. Francisco said in appeals to Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Elena Kagan.

    The law requires employers to provide insurance that covers a range of preventive care, free of charge, including contraception. The Catholic Church prohibits the use of contraceptives.

    The Obama administration crafted a compromise, or accommodations, that attempted to create a buffer for religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and social service groups that oppose birth control. The law requires insurers or the health plan's outside administrator to pay for birth control coverage and creates a way to reimburse them.

    That isn't enough, Francisco said.

    "In short, under the accommodation, applicants must authorize their third party administrators or insurance companies to provide the very products and services they find morally objectionable," he said. "Suffice it to say, the 'accommodation' does not resolve applicants' religious objection to participation in this regulatory scheme."

    Roberts and Kagan handle emergency requests for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the Sixth Circuit. They can act by themselves or involve the rest of the court.

    Federal judges have refused to issue a stay in these cases, and the appeals courts have not ruled on the request for an injunction.

    (Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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