The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has declared its battle against President Obama's mandate on contraceptive health coverage a top priority. “This dispute is not about access to contraceptives, but about the government’s forcing the church to provide them,” said the bishops' statement. If the mandate is "allowed to stand, it will spread throughout federal law, weakening its healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity." The mandate requires contraceptive insurance coverage for most workers of religious organizations, even though the church opposes birth control.
The conference plans to address other issues in the coming months—including fighting limitations on campus religious groups, and requirements that clerics turn in illegal immigrants. But the contraceptive conflict is the key catalyst behind a new thrust of the church into the public arena at a time when a crop of conservative leaders is unified behind the issue, observers tell the Washington Post. “The bishops haven’t been in the rally business,” said one insider. “This is a dramatic difference from the past.” The birth control issue is the "most significant" item on the conference agenda, said spokeswoman Sister Mary Ann Walsh. "It's a full-court press."