First Lady Michelle Obama boasted at a campaign event in Omaha, Neb. on Tuesday that "we made history" when the president's health care proposal was enacted and the administration issued a regulation mandating that insurance companies provide women with free contraceptives.
"Two years ago, we made history together by finally passing health reform," said Mrs. Obama. "And because we passed this law, insurance companies will now have to cover basic preventive care--things like prenatal care, mammograms, contraception--at no extra cost."
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalized the "preventive services" regulation in January and it will take effect for most employers on Aug. 1. The regulation mandates that nearly all health insurance plans in the United States must provide women with sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives (including those that can induce abortions) without any fees or co-pay.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and many Catholic leaders in the United States have voiced strong opposition to the mandate because they say it would force Catholics--whose church teaches that sterilization, contraception and abortion are wrong--to act against their consciences and the teachings of their faith. In comments submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the regulation an "unprecedented attack" on religious liberty and asked the administration to rescind it in its entirety.
A number of Catholic institutions, including Ave Maria University, Belmont Abbey College, and EWTN, have sued the administration over the regulation arguing that it violates their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.