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Religious schools, hospitals should pay for employees' birth control, says advocacy group

A local Latina advocacy group is asking women to call President Obama and give him an earful about birth control. The details are complicated: As explained in this Washington Post story, Catholic bishops are pressuring Obama to dilute a proposed rule that would allow women access to birth control without paying out-of-pocket.

The rule, which was proposed by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in August but has not yet gone into effect, requires all new insurance plans to cover birth control without co-pays. A narrow exemption allows religious nonprofits to opt out. But Catholic bishops and others argue that the exemption is so narrow that only churches (and thus, their employees) would qualify for it.

According to news sources, the bishops are lobbying Obama to expand the exemption to cover other religious employers too, such as schools, hospitals and social services agencies -- and the Post suggests it may be working.

That's exactly what the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, an advocacy group based in Denver, doesn't want to happen. "We'd prefer not to have any exemptions," says Ryann Dubiel, COLOR's communications coordinator.

However, she says, if there has to be an exemption, COLOR would rather it be as narrow as possible. "We want to ensure that Latinas in our community have the full range of birth control options available to them regardless of who they work for," Dubiel says.

COLOR is encouraging women to call Obama (his digits are 202-456-1111; "The line may be busy," COLOR warns, "but please keep trying!") and implore him not to cave to the Catholic powers-that-be. Though the issue is national, Dubiel says, "it becomes local... We want to make sure we know what's going on and our community has a say in it."

More from our Politics archives: "Personhood Amendment reboot Q&A with Kristi Burton Brown, face of original 2008 campaign."

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