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Catholic Leaders Blast White House's Take On Contraception Debate Negotiations Time Frame

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The White House was on the run Tuesday as the controversy over requiring Catholic institutions to provide birth control to their employees erupted on the campaign trail.

President Barack Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, was on the hot seat yet again over a provision of the health care bill that will force Catholic schools, hospitals and charities to pay for birth control pills, morning after pills and other forms of contraception for their employees, reports CBS 2's Marcia Kramer.

"The president is committed to making sure that all women have access to these important preventive services," Carney said. "Let's be clear, the rule does not require any individual or institution to provide contraception. It requires coverage for women who work there of different faiths."

The White House is trying desperately to quiet inflamed Catholic leaders, who are threatening to use the power of their 70 million voices at the voting box, by saying that negotiations will be on-going during the next 18 months.

Hogwash say church leaders.

"What matters is whether Catholic institutions must pay for services that are contrary to Catholic teachings," said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League. "Similarly, it is unpersuasive to say Catholic entities have 18 months to work things out. Who gave the administration a stop watch to measure how long it takes for Catholic organizations to prostitute their convictions?"

Meanwhile, the issue is gaining traction on the campaign trail. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney blasted the president and sided with Catholics and members of other religious groups.

"This is a violation of conscience. We must have a president who is willing to protect America's first right: a right to worship God," Romney said.

Romney said that if elected he will eliminate the rule on his first day in office. Both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum also attacked the administration policy Tuesday.

Meanwhile, sources told Kramer top religious leaders have a meeting Wednesday to firm up their strategy for fighting the president.

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