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Thursday February 09, 2012 | 02:36 PM

Rep. Chellie Pingree says President Obama should stick to a rule requiring all employers, including religious-affiliated hospitals and universities but not churches, to provide insurance coverage of contraceptives.

Pingree says Obama should not give in to pressure from many Republicans and some Democrats to grant a wider exemption to the rule for religious institutions. She said 225,000 churches and church associations already are exempted, but that including hospitals would impact hundreds of thousands of people – noting that one out of seven hospital employees works for a Catholic hospital.

“All women should have access to birth control at no cost no matter where they work,” Pingree said. “Not only is it good preventive medicine that will reduce health care costs and unwanted pregnancies, it’s also an economic issue.  Having to pay for contraceptive coverage out-of-pocket is a big burden for many working women and they shouldn’t be denied coverage because of who their employer is.”

Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine are among those saying that Obama should address the concerns raised by religious leaders, despite the fact that in 2001 Snowe authored and Collins co-sponsored a bill that prohibited insurance plans to exclude contraceptives from their prescription benefits.

There was no religious exemption in that bill as written, but Snowe indicated at the time that she would address that issue and a Collins spokesman says that Collins too favored a “conscience clause.” The bill didn’t advance that year after a Sept. 10 2001 hearing.

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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