The Obama administration announced today that it is standing by its decision to require that insurance providers — with the exception of religious employers — cover birth control as a preventive service. Instead of giving in to requests that all objectors be able to opt out, the feds have instead given religious groups a one-year extension to meet the mandate.

The birth control mandate, which has been championed by women’s health advocates, means that women who have health insurance will not have to pay a co-payment for their birth control. For many women, steep co-payments for birth control have become unaffordable.

Women’s health advocates feared the president would capitulate to the demands of some of the biggest opponents to the policy, Catholic bishops. The bishops’ demands ranged from asking the policy be stricken “in its entirety” to asking that the rule allow a broad exemption for religious objectors. Catholic leaders have said the existing exemption is“too limited” and might leave out Catholic hospitals.

However, the Associated Press reports that the Obama administration has announced that “church-affiliated institutions will get only one additional year to meet a new rule to cover birth control free of charge.”

According to the AP:

The new rule is part of a package of improved preventive services for women under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Birth control is on a list of services that most workplace health plans will have to cover free of charge to employees.

Instead, the one-year extension applies to nonprofit institutions such as church-affiliated hospitals, universities and social service organizations. They will now have until August 1, 2013, to comply. Because of the way health insurance plans work, their employees will not have access to the new coverage until January 1, 2014, in most cases.

Reproductive rights advocates are saying that the administration has fulfilled his promise.

Catholics for Choice issued a press release today, saying that “President Obama listened to all of the women and men who called, e-mailed and wrote to the White House to express their support for family planning decisions staying in the hands of women.”

“In so doing,” the group writes, “he remained true to the original vision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and refused to bend the knee to intense lobbying from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic healthcare industry and other special interests who wanted him to expand a refusal clause that would have denied millions of women access to affordable family planning.”

NARAL Pro-Choice America said today that the decision “will benefit millions of women.”

“Birth control is basic health care for women, and 98 percent of women use birth control at some point in their lives,” Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America said in a statement. “Today’s decision stands in stark contrast with the anti-choice presidential candidates’ positions on birth control. We will make sure voters understand the difference.”

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