NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Catholic leaders upped the ante Monday, threatening to challenge the Obama administration over a provision of the new health care law that would require all employers, including religious institutions, to pay for birth control.
As CBS 2's Marcia Kramer reports, it could affect the presidential elections.
Catholic leaders are furious and determined to harness the voting power of the nation's 70 million Catholic voters to stop a provision of President Barack Obama's new heath car reform bill that will force Catholic schools, hospitals and charities to buy birth control pills, seo services, abortion-producing drugs and sterilization coverage for their employees.
"Never before, unprecedented in American history, for the federal government to line up against the Roman Catholic Church," said Catholic League head Bill Donohue.
Already Archbishop Timothy Dolan has spoken out against the law and priests around the country have mobilized, reading letters from the pulpit. Donohue said Catholic officials will stop at nothing to put a stop to it.
"This is going to be fought out with lawsuits, with court decisions, and, dare I say it, maybe even in the streets," Donohue said.
But pro-choice groups said they will fight the church and fight for the right of employees of Catholic institutions to have birth control and other services paid for.
"The Catholic hierarchy seems to be playing a cynical game of chicken and they don't seem to care that the health and well being of millions of American woman are what's at stake here," National Abortion Rights Action League President Andrea Miller said.
Catholic leaders hope they will have more sway with the White House than usual because it is a presidential election year, hoping that if even a small percentage of Catholics back Obama's opponent it could cost him the election.
When asked if this issue would affect who he would vote for in November, Wilton, Conn., resident Peter Taylor said, "Potentially, yes. I think it is a very serious issue, very meaningful."
But not everyone views the situation as dire.
"I would certainly vote for Obama anyway. The church has to get up to date," Manhattan resident Sue Thomas said.
Sources told Kramer that American bishops are contemplating a massive march on Washington, using people and school kids bused in from all over to protest the law.
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