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Boehner vows to block prescription contraceptive rule

Boehner vows to block prescription contraceptive rule

WASHINGTON—House Speaker John Boehner said if the Obama administration does not withdraw part of a rule mandating that affiliates of religious organizations offer full coverage of prescription contraceptives, lawmakers will act to block enforcement.

“If the president does not reverse the…attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must” act, Speaker Boehner said in a speech on the House floor Wednesday.

The Ohio Republication said the House Energy and Commerce Committee soon will consider legislation to prevent enforcement of the rule.

The controversy, initially spearheaded by religious organizations, such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has not gone unnoticed by the administration. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the administration would consider changes to the prescription contraceptive drug mandate, though it does not plan to withdraw the rule.

The mandate also was drawn fire from some congressional Democrats. In a letter sent last week to President Obama, Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., wrote that while he supports greater access to contraception, “I believe, just as strongly, that religiously affiliated organizations like hospitals and universities should not be compelled by our federal government to purchase insurance policies that violate their religious and moral convictions.”

The rule, announced last month by Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, is to go into effect in two stages. For most employers, the mandate will apply to plan years that begin on or after Aug. 1.

Employers, such as hospitals and universities, which are affiliated with religious organizations, would have to comply with the requirement for health care plan years that begin on or after Aug. 1, 2013. That is the part of the rule that has drawn criticism.

The mandate would not apply to religious organizations, such as churches, that primarily employ those who share in their beliefs and to employers with grandfathered health care plans.

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