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Mar 26, 2013 7:55 PM by Connie Murphy

AGs push for contraceptive exemption for companies

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt joined 12 other attorneys general Tuesday in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asking that it adopt broader religious exemptions to the federal health care law's requirement that employee insurance plans cover emergency contraceptives.

The attorneys general sent their letter on the same day that a New York-based abortion rights group announced that it had filed of a friend of the court brief in Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby's appeal of a ruling that its plan must include emergency contraceptives, such as the so-called morning after pill.

The Center for Reproductive Rights said it filed the brief Friday on behalf of several groups that support requiring Hobby Lobby Stores and Mardel Inc. to provide the coverage under the new federal health care law.

Hobby Lobby and Mardel are owned by a conservative Christian family who say the mandate for contraceptives violates their religious beliefs because they consider the morning-after pill tantamount to abortion.

The companies are appealing a federal judge's ruling that they must provide the insurance.

The friend of the court brief filed with the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals said the government must make sure that an individual's right to affordable contraception is not blocked.

"The mandate to provide insurance for contraceptive care without cost-sharing is a positive step toward respecting and protecting women's right to health, including reproductive health," it said.

The letter signed by Pruitt cites the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as reason to grant broader exemptions to the federal act, including to all religious-affiliated nonprofits and to certain for-profit companies.

"The government must provide a meaningful exception to the HHS mandate for for-profit business owners who object on conscience grounds," the letter said.

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