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Obama offers faith groups new birth control rule

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration on Friday proposed a work-around for religious nonprofits that object to providing health insurance that covers birth control.

The government's new regulation attempts to create a barrier between religious groups and contraception coverage, through insurers or a third party, that would still give women free access to contraception. It wasn't immediately clear whether religious leaders would accept the new approach, or whether it would stem the tide of lawsuits by Roman Catholic charities and other faith-affiliated nonprofits nationwide challenging the requirement to provide such coverage.

The Catholic Health Association, a trade group for hospitals, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops separately had no immediate reaction, saying they were studying the regulations. Policy analyst Sarah Lipton-Lubet of the American Civil Liberties Union said the rule appeared to meet the ACLU's goal of providing "seamless coverage" of birth control for the affected women.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement the compromise would provide "women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns."

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