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Bishop of Ogdensburg rallies opposition to contraception rule

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OGDENSBURG — Bishop Terry R. LaValley is asking Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg parishioners to oppose a federal law requiring employers to provide health insurance to workers that covers the cost of birth control.

The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover preventive care at no extra cost to patients, which eliminates co-pays for services such as regular checkups. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services included birth control in its list of services considered preventive care.

“I urge every person to contact representatives in Congress insisting on their support of legislation that would reverse the administration’s decision,” Bishop LaValley wrote in a letter to parishioners.

Religious institutions that employ people primarily of their own faith are exempt from the rule. But because Catholic-run institutions, such as nursing homes and Catholic Charities, employ people of all creeds, Bishop LaValley said in his letter, they are subject to the law. He called the law “an unprecedented assault on religious liberty.”

“We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law,” the bishop said in his letter.

Supporters of the law disagree that it infringes on religious beliefs.

“It is not a moral question; birth control and access to contraception is an important medical service,” said Aram Schvey, policy counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights in Washington, D.C. “It is a neutral, generally applicable law. It has nothing to do with the exercise of religion and religious practice as such.”

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