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U.S. bishops: HHS final rules still inadequate

 HHS sealThe president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops today said the final rules on the federal Department of Health and Human Services mandate requiring coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations still fall short in protecting religious freedom.

The federal government last week issued the final rules, with a five-month extension for religious organizations to comply as of Jan. 1. USCCB President Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York then issued a press release saying the bishops would study the 110-page ruling before commenting.

In a statement issued today, Dolan stated the final rules do not eliminate "the need to continue defending our rights in Congress and the courts."

Dolan notes the final rules do not solve concerns regarding the definition of a "religious employer" who therefore qualifies for an exemption, or address problems with the "accommodation" for employers deemed not "religious enough" for the exemption. The rules also lack an exemption or "accommodation" for individuals and for-profit businesses. 

"We are concerned as pastors with the freedom of the Church as a whole — not just for the full range of its institutional forms, but also for the faithful in their daily lives — to carry out the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ," Dolan wrote.

However, the USCCB is still analyzing the final rules, and "will have more to say when this aspect of our analysis is completed," Dolan stated.