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      Obama's birth control policy affects Central New York Catholics

      The controversy over President Obama's policy on birth control is affecting central New Yorkers.

      The President recently required that church-affiliated organizations provide employees with access to birth control through their health insurance plans.

      The policy has drawn severe criticism from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse. In a January 27th letter, Bishop Robert J. Cunningham told parishioners that the "administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution...denying to Catholics our Nation's first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty."

      The Bishop's letter stated that "almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees' health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and contraception. Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those "services" in the health policies they write." Bishop Cunningham's letter added: "We cannot - we will not- comply with this unjust law."

      The White House says the President is trying to protect women, but Congressional Republicans are vowing to roll back the Administration's policy.

      Betty DeFazio of Planned Parenthood in Syracuse told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon, "Birth control use is nearly universal in the United States, even among Catholic women." DeFazio said "99 percent of sexually active women use some form of birth control during their lives."

      She called President Obama's police a "common sense expansion" of health care coverage.

      Despite Bishop Cunningham's pledge to defy the federal mandate, Le Moyne College, a Jesuit institution in Syracuse, has been offering birth control in its health insurance plan since 2003. Associate Vice President of Human Resources, Jack Matson, says Le Moyne decided to "comply with the law" when New York State enacted the Women's Health and Wellness Act 10 years ago. Matson says 330 of Le Moyne's 600 employees are covered by the college's health insurance plan though Blue Cross/Blue Shield.