WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration scrambled Thursday to contain a growing election-year outcry over its decision that church-affiliated employers must cover birth control regardless of their religious principles.

House Speaker John Boehner, a Catholic, called the requirement unconstitutional while White House spokesman Jay Carney said it is part of a reasoned policy to promote women's health and does not encourage abortion.

Under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law, most employers and insurance plans will have to cover birth control free of charge as preventive care for women. Churches and houses of worship do not have to follow that requirement, but administration officials recently announced that many religious-affiliated institutions such as hospitals, colleges and charities must comply after a year's phase-in period.

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