The Archdiocese of Baltimore is gearing up for a fight against new federal rules requiring them to cover contraceptives for many church-affiliated employees.
In a letter to congregants released Tuesday, Cardinal-designate Edwin O'Brien said the archdiocese "cannot—and will not—comply with this unjust law."
"And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics ... must be prepared either to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so)," O'Brien wrote.
Under the new rules, announced last week by the Department of Health and Human Services, nearly all employers must offer access to birth control as part of all health insurance programs by Aug. 1. Churches themselves are exempt, but other institutions—Towson-area schools like , , and , hospitals like —are not.
St. Joseph, which is owned by Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives and not the archdiocese, issued a statement to Patch on Tuesday saying the hospital and its parent "are disappointed that the definition of a religious employer was not broadened by the HHS regarding the final rule on preventive health services for women. This was a missed opportunity to be clear on appropriate conscience protection."
The new rule has generated a storm of criticism in the last week, mostly from Catholic groups, who argue the rule is a violation of the First Amendment freedom of religion.
In an interview Tuesday on MSNBC, Obama political advisor David Axelrod said there is room for compromise on the new rule, including the August deadline, but that, ultimately, women should not be denied access to preventative care.