Under orders from the Obama administration, most health insurers will be required to cover birth control without charging co-pays or deductibles starting August 1.

Churches, synagogues and other houses of worship are exempt from the requirement, but religious-affiliated hospitals and universities only get a one-year delay and must comply by Aug. 1, 2013.

Congressional Republicans slammed the decision as an assault on religious freedom, but, in a prepared statement, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she believes "this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services."

Abortion rights groups immediately applauded the decision.

Some religious institutions, however, have said they would sooner close their hospital doors than cover or provide birth control, which they liken to abortion in some cases.

"What war and disease could not do to the Congregation, the government of the United States will do," Nashville's Dominican congregation testified. "It will shut them down."

via Health plans ordered to cover birth control without co-pays - The Hill's Healthwatch.

Access to birth control is the most controversial aspect of the healthcare reform law's preventive care provisions, which require plans to cover such care without co-pays and deductibles. The assumption is that such coverage will prevent people from getting sick and keep healthcare costs down.