The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is urging Catholics to write letters of opposition to the federal government over its recent decision to require insurance providers to cover birth control without co-payments. The site also urges people to ask Congress to support the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.

A page on the Catholic Bishops’ website says that “on September 7, Cardinal DiNardo, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Acitivities, urged Congress to support conscience protection legislation in light of this ‘unprecedented threat to religious freedom.’”

The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act was introduced in the Senate early last month by three Republicans — one of which was Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Rubio is a practicing Catholic who has introduced anti-abortion legislation in the Senate.

According to previous reporting by The American Independent, the bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives “has 44 co-sponsors and hasn’t seen any congressional action since March 28, according to bill records documented by the Library of Congress.”

The legislation proposed in both the House and Senate would provide a way for the church to receive federal funds through health care exchanges created by federal health care reform, but would allow the church to be exempt from following the recent recommendation made by the Institute of Medicine that places birth control on a list of preventative health care services.

The Bishops have also sent out a 35-page comment claiming that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recent decision to include birth control in its list of preventive care services violates the First Amendment’s religion clause. The Bishops are claiming that the religious exemption provision already included in the decision is “too limited.” In the comment, the religious group requested that the mandate be rescinded “in its entirety.”

As has been previously pointed out by Catholics for Choice President Jon O’Brien, the majority of Catholic women have yet to be convinced by the Church’s hard line on birth control.

“What’s really going on,” O’Brien said, “is that they have failed to convince Catholics in their own churches. So, [the Bishops] have to go through political lobbying to stop Catholics from using contraception.”

Recent polling finds that 66 percent of Americans agree with the federal government’s recent decision to include birth control in its list of preventative services. Furthermore, according to  research conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, about “98 percent of sexually active Catholic women have used contraceptive methods banned by the church.”

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