By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Obama administration is said to be working toward a compromise on a provision of the health care reform law that requires employer health plans to cover contraceptives (watch related video).

Some religious groups object to the provision, but women’s health groups say it’s an important advance.

Last Sunday, area Catholics heard a letter from Archbishop Charles Chaput, denouncing the regulation as a violation of religious freedom.   The new rule would force many Catholic employers to cover contraceptives in its health plans even though the church officially opposes them.

Chaput warned that Catholic employers might drop health coverage for employees altogether.

Even US senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.), a supporter of health care reform, has asked for an exemption for Catholic employers. But women’s health advocates say that would be a step backward.

“The regulation is fundamental to improving women’s health,” says Dayle Steinberg of Planned Parenthood.  She says it also improves overall family health:

“It saves lives, it improves outcomes for children, and importantly, it reduces the need for abortion.”

Advocates estimate that more than 11 million women use contraceptives.  Twenty-eight states, including New Jersey and Delaware, already require employer health plans to cover them.

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