November 26, 2012 — The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee on Wednesday ruled that the Catholic Diocese of Nashville and other Catholic employers in the area lack standing to challenge the federal contraceptive coverage rules because they have not been harmed by the regulations, BNA reports (Sturges, BNA, 11/26).
The plaintiffs in the case included the Nashville diocese, Aquinas College, Catholic Charities, Father Ryan High School, Pope John Paul II High School, child care provider St. Mary Villa, and senior housing providers Mary Queen of Angels and Villa Maria Manor. They argued that the contraceptive coverage rules violate their Catholic beliefs.
The rules, which are being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), require health plans issued or renewed after Aug. 1 to cover contraceptive services without copayments or deductibles. HHS has given religiously affiliated entities, such as colleges and hospitals, a one-year delay period to come into compliance, and religious institutions, such as churches and synagogues, are exempt altogether (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/14).
Details of Ruling
The court said that the plaintiffs qualify for the one-year delay period, meaning that the "regulations, in their current form, will not be enforced against Plaintiffs." Therefore, the plaintiffs cannot prove any harm directly traceable to the rules, the court said.
Further, "[b]ecause the preventive services regulations are in the process of being amended, they are by definition a tentative agency position in which the agency expressly reserves the possibility that its opinion might change and, therefore, are not fit for judicial decision at this time," the court added.
The ruling cited a decision in August by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which dismissed a lawsuit filed by Wheaton College on similar grounds (BNA, 11/26).
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