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NEWS STORIES

Local Lawmakers and Religious Leader's Take on Contraceptive DebateSubmitted: 02/19/2012

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RHINELANDER - The contraceptive rule in President Barack Obama's health care reform law has sparked an on-going debate between politicians, religious leaders, and women's rights groups.

When President Obama announced contraceptives would be included in required preventative healthcare coverage by all employers, Cardinal Timothy Dolan lead Catholic Bishops in protest.

"Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience," says Cardinal Dolan.

After weeks of pressure the President revised the rule.

"Religious organizations won't have to pay for these services, and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly," says President Obama.

But the rule does still require the institution's insurance to offer contraceptives.

"All it's doing is saying, 'Well the insurance company has to now provide it'. Well in essence the Catholic Church is still paying for the insurance," says Representative Sean Duffy.

"Although it looked like a compromise to some extent, it does not really respect fully religious liberty. Because indirectly employers will have to pay eventually," says Father Tom Thakadipuram, the Priest at Nativity of Our Lord Parish.

The rule does exempt churches, but almost nothing else including religiously affiliated hospitals or charities. Father Tom says the revision is a good start, but he agrees with Cardinal Dolan that the rule as it stands is unacceptable.

"I would like to see a broader exemption because of the principals of religious liberty at stake," says Father Tom.

But supporters of the contraception rule aren't happy about how GOP leaders are going about opposing it.

"It seems that women are always fair game when there are hot-button issues," says Nancy Meier, from Merrill.

Last week the GOP held a hearing regarding contraceptives. Supporters of the rule pointed out the panel included religious leaders, but left someone else out.

"Imagine having a panel on women's health, and not having any women on the panel," says Representative Nancy Pelosi.

As this issue is likely to continue to be hotly debated, Father Tom hopes both sides can find common ground.

"As religious leaders and as political leaders we need to embrace the virtue of the middle. I think that is the way for the country to go forward," says Father Tom.

Congress is expected to vote soon on legislation to block the President's policy.

Story By: Lyndsey Stemm

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