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President Obama's Pro-Choice Birth Control Decision Draws Praise From Religious Leaders

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- A group of religious organizations Monday thanked President Obama for his administration's recent decision on contraception, hoping to bring attention to religious pro-choice voices and to show that not all people of faith disagree with the new law.

Seven religious leaders from the Jewish, Unitarian, Baptist and other faiths addressed a letter to Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. All are members of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a which includes more than 40 denominations and faith groups to promote education and issues of reproductive choice

"We believe that all women deserve access to affordable birth control, regardless of their employer, and we hope that, in the future, HHS will expand the same preventive coverage to women across the board," they wrote in the letter, obtained by The Huffington Post.

"As clergy, we are committed to upholding the important goals of reproductive justice and health, empowering women and men to make decisions about whether and when to have and bear children within their own moral and religious tradition, and assuring them the means and ability to raise their children in a safe and healthy environment. Access to reproductive health services recognizes a moral value embraced across the religious spectrum. We thank you for your decision supporting the fundamental value of reproductive health to women and families."

The new rule stems from the Affordable Care Act. Most women employed in the U.S. will have the cost of their birth control covered with no co-pay, effective Aug. 1.

The rule exempted employers including churches and other places of worship whose primary purpose is imparting religious beliefs. But many religious groups argued it was too narrow and should apply to religious-affiliated organizations as well. The Obama administration disagreed, but it gave these employers an extra year to comply with the new law.

The Rev. Matthew Westfox, the organization's director of interfaith outreach, said the letter was intended to thank the Obama administration for its decision, and to provide an alternative religious voice, since so much attention had been put on opposition to the rule by some Roman Catholic organizations.

"What a lot of the press has been reporting is that all religious groups are opposed to this -- which is just categorically untrue," Westfox said. "We really wanted to make clear that on behalf of ourselves and thousands of people of faith and clergy and religious organizations across the country, that we stood in support of this decision. We think it's really important to know that many people of faith are supportive of this and have been supportive of access to birth control and individual people being able to access their conscience in support of health care."

Perhaps the loudest voice opposing the Obama administration's decision has been the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. After Sebelius issued the administration's decision, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference, said he felt "a sense of personal disappointment."

"I had to share with him that I was terribly let down, disappointed and disturbed, and it seemed the news he had given me was difficult to square with the confidence I had felt in November," Dolan said of a phone conversation he had with the president.

Read the letter:

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