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NY archdiocese 'reluctantly' covers birth control, abortion

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The Roman Catholic church’s largest archdiocese has for years offered some of its employees a benefits package that includes coverage for contraceptive costs and even abortion.

The disclosure of the benefits, confirmed by a New York archdiocese spokesperson, comes as church officials continue their attack on President Obama’s health care reform act. Included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is mandatory coverage for birth control pills and some of the costs of an abortion.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the highest ranking Catholic bishop in the U.S., has publicly assailed sections of PPACA that require employers to include birth control coverage in employee health coverage plans.

Yet, as the New York Times reported, Dolan’s home archdiocese has “quietly been paying for such coverage, albeit reluctantly and indirectly, for thousands of its unionized employees for over a decade.”

The newspaper said the coverage predated Dolan’s tenure as archbishop of New York. The newspaper quoted Joseph Zwilling, an archdiocese spokesperson, as saying, “We provide the services under protest.” 

Birth control measures of any kind, and abortion, except under the most dire circumstances, have long been officially opposed by the Catholic church, which considers both immoral. 

The church has acknowledged in the past that employee benefits packages offered by some local Catholic churches did cover certain contraception and abortion costs. However, the Times reported, this is the first time the church has admitted that an entity as large and prominent as the New York diocese has provided such benefits to employees.

The coverage is contained in benefits plans for employees of nursing homes and clinics operated by the church, the Times reported.  More than 3,000 employees at the Catholic Health Care System have a benefits package that offers “coverage for contraception and voluntary pregnancy termination,” the paper said. The employees are members of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

Even while offering the controversial coverage to employees, the New York Diocese has been pursuing a federal lawsuit aimed at overturning the sections of health care reform that mandate coverage of birth control and abortion. That suit, as well as many others filed by religious organizations, is pending.

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