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Catholic Bishops Launch Lawsuit over Contraceptives

By Mark Scott

Albany, NY – The state's Roman Catholic bishops and some Protestant churches are suing the state to overturn a law that will require employers -- including religious hospitals and agencies -- to offer prescription contraceptives to employees.

The law exempts churches, seminaries and other institutions with a mainly religious mission that primarily serve followers of that religion. But religious institutions that run hospitals, nursing homes, social service agencies and schools are not exempt. So, if they choose to provide prescription drug coverage to employees, they must also cover women's prescription contraceptives.

"Such an outrageous law ought to alarm anyone who loves America and the freedoms for which it stands," said eight Catholic bishops, including Buffalo's Henry Mansell, in a statement announcing the suit.

"We cannot let this unprecedented intrusion on our religious rights go unchallenged," the bishops said of the suit filed Monday in state Supreme Court in Albany.

Contraceptive coverage was the most controversial part of the state's Women's Health Bill, which requires employers to cover other things such as more frequent mammograms and osteoporosis exams.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood of Buffalo and Erie County says the lawsuit will keep thousands of women from getting important health care coverage.