St. Gianna Physician’s Guild, a group of Catholic physicians, has launched an online campaign asking Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama administration “to immediately withdraw all references to contraception and contraception counseling from the ‘Guidelines for Women’s Preventive Services’ under The Affordable Care Act, and to provide a conscience clause to protect the religious freedom and beliefs of Catholics.”

Catholic medical providers, insurers, etc. have been the biggest opponents to a recent decision by a federal health agency to require insurers to include contraception on a list of preventative medical services through the Affordable Care Act. This would allow women to buy birth control pills, for example, without having to make a co-payment, which can make contraception unaffordable for many women.

Despite an expressed exception for “religious institutions that offer insurance to their employees,” Catholic Bishops, Catholic hospitals and other Catholic groups have publicly expressed opposition to the exception because “it is too limited.”

According to a St. Gianna press release:

On August 1, 2011 the Department of Health and Human Services directed by Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic, adopted new guidelines for women’s health that stipulates mandatory coverage be provided for surgical sterilization, all prescription contraceptives approved by the FDA — including drugs like Ella that can cause abortions in the early weeks of pregnancy – as well as counseling to promote them.

“We are going to send a message to the Obama Administration that this contraception mandate is wrong, discriminatory and violates the religious rights of Catholics all across America,” stated the Guild’s president, Thomas McKenna.

The Obama administration is taking heat from many Catholic leaders including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said: “Those who sponsor, purchase and issue health plans should not be forced to violate their deeply held moral and religious convictions in order to take part in the health care system or provide for the needs of their families or their employees.” “To force such an unacceptable choice would be as much a threat to universal access to health care as it is to freedom of conscience.”

The group’s petition (StopTheBirthControlMandate.com) was announced today.

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