Belmont Abbey fights birth control provision in health reform

by: Scott MacFarlane Updated:

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WASHINGTON, D.C. —

Belmont Abbey leaders have made multiple trips to Washington in recent months to fight the health reform law, visiting Congress and the courts.

The sticking point -- birth control.

The landmark law requires many large employers to provide health insurance coverage to its employees that includes contraceptives, but the rule violates the religious school's conscience.

Belmont Abbey's attorney Kyle Duncan will argue the requirement is a violation of the school's rights Friday morning at the federal appeals court in Washington.

"What we'll explain to the court is this is a real harm. And they need to address it now," Duncan said.

The school said it faces huge fines if it refuses to offer birth control.

The government said it won't be enforcing those penalties those fines until it takes a second look at the birth-control requirement itself and until it considers a possible exemption for religious organizations, including Catholic colleges.

Belmont Abbey's lawyer said the school can't be sure it will get one.

"Belmont Abbey doesn't know when it's going to become liable for these fines, so it's constrained in what it can do," Duncan said.

The debate over whether health reform should include insurance for birth control has heated up in the years since the law was passed.

Supporters of the provision have been transformed into political heavyweights, including Sandra Fluke, a law student who spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

"What I came here to talk about today are the women who are unable to access basic health care that is vital to their well-being," Fluke said at the DNC.