The Department of Health and Human Services announced in August 2011 that it will require all employers (with few exceptions) that provide health insurance to their employees to also include contraception, sterilization, and coverage for abortion-inducing drugs without charging co-pay fees. The mandate only offers very limited conscience protections for select religious entities, such as churches, that meet strict criteria. In response, numerous religious organizations protested this violation of their religious beliefs. Nonetheless, the Administration recently announced that it will not expand the religious exemption in the mandate, or change it at all. This means that religious institutions like Catholic colleges and hospitals, or other Christian institutions would be compelled to violate their conscience by cooperating with that which they believe to be wrong; non-compliance could result in heavy fines for employers and it has been suggested that schools like the University of Notre Dame could be fined millions of dollars. Currently, many of these institutions provide health-insurance plans that do not provide free coverage of these services. Recently, pressure has increased on the Administration either to drop the HHS mandate, or else to devise a much broader religious exemption. More than 60 evangelical and orthodox Jewish leaders sent a letter to the Administration on December 21 protesting the narrow mandate. In addition, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has informed the Administration that it will not comply with the mandate and other Christian schools have filed suit in federal court.
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