WASHINGTON

Catholic hospitals reject deal on birth-control coverage

Sharpening an election-year confrontation over religious freedom and government health insurance rules, the nation’s Catholic hospitals on Friday rejected President Barack Obama’s compromise for providing birth control coverage to their women employees.

The Catholic Health Association was a key ally in Obama’s health care overhaul. But the group said Friday it does not believe church-affiliated employers should have to provide birth control as a free preventive service, as the law now requires.

Under the president’s compromise, the cost of providing birth control would be covered by insurance companies and not religious employers. While churches and other places of worship are exempt from the birth control mandate, nonprofits affiliated with a religion, such as hospitals, are not.

In a letter to the federal Health and Human Services Department, the hospital group said the compromise initially seemed to be “a good first step” but that examination of the details proved disappointing.

WASHINGTON

LGBT guests hear words of encouragement from Obama

President Barack Obama told gay supporters Friday that they will have a friend and “fellow advocate” in the White House as long as he is president.

Obama spoke to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender guests during a White House reception marking LGBT Pride Month. He touted his administration’s work on gay rights issues, including repealing the military’s ban on openly gay service members.

The president also referenced his recent public embrace of gay marriage. He said that while some Americans may still be evolving on same-sex marriage, he and wife, Michelle, “have made up our minds on this issue.” The remark drew extended applause.

PORTLAND, Ore.

Man has blood-borne type of plague, officials confirm

Health officials have confirmed that an Oregon man has the plague after he was bitten while trying to take a dead rodent from the mouth of a stray cat.

The unidentified Prineville, Ore., man was in critical condition on Friday. He is suffering from a blood-borne version of the disease that wiped out at least one-third of Europe in the 14th century — that one, the bubonic plague, affects lymph nodes.

There is an average of seven human plague cases in the U.S. each year. A map maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that most cases since the 1970s have been in the West.

— From news service reports