August 8, 2012 — The Department of Justice on Monday requested that a judge dismiss a Roman Catholic university's lawsuit against the federal contraceptive coverage rules, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The lawsuit, filed by Franciscan University of Steubenville and an association of Michigan Roman Catholic dioceses, alleges that the rules violate the religious freedom of Catholic universities that oppose contraception (Welsh-Huggins, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 8/7).
The contraceptive coverage rules implement the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) women's preventive services provision. They require health plans issued or renewed after Aug. 1 to cover various services without copayments or deductibles. HHS has exempted religious institutions, such as churches and synagogues, from being required to cover contraception under the rules, and it instituted a one-year delay for religiously affiliated entities, such as colleges and hospitals, to come into compliance (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/2).
In court papers filed late Monday, DOJ lawyers argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the plaintiffs do not face an immediate threat of having to offer the coverage. They also noted that the Obama administration has pledged to make changes to the regulations to address the concerns of religious groups.
"This is simply not a case where plaintiffs are forced to choose between forgoing lawful activity and risking substantial legal sanctions," the lawyers wrote.
Last month, a federal judge in Nebraska dismissed a similar case filed by seven states against the contraceptive coverage requirement. In that case, U.S. District Court Judge Warren Urbom ruled that the plaintiffs failed to prove they would suffer immediate harm as a result of the rules, noting that the administration has agreed to work with religiously affiliated entities (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 8/7).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership