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Thursday, January 02, 2014

Courts - "Indiana reflects contraception mandate disparity"

Updating three earlier ILB entries, the most recent being this long overview from yesterday headed "Catholic groups appeal to Supreme Court re ACA contraceptive mandate", Tim Evans of the Indianapolis Star has a long front-page story today giving a comprehensive view of the issue. Some quotes:

Nonprofit organizations with religious affiliations across the country were required to begin providing contraceptive services to employees Wednesday under the Affordable Care Act.

Many did, despite ongoing objections based on tenets of their faiths.

But others caught a break, at least temporarily, as a last-minute legal fight over the controversial mandate generated a patchwork of federal court decisions late Tuesday.

The fates of two Northern Indiana schools — the University of Notre Dame and Grace College and Seminary — highlight the confusion and disparity that legal experts say is likely to land the matter before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Judges seated in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana recently issued opposing opinions in separate cases in which the two schools sought preliminary injunctions to block implementation of the mandate.

On Dec. 20, Philip P. Simon, the district’s chief judge, denied a request for an injunction sought by the University of Notre Dame.

Just a week later, on Dec. 27, district judge Jon E. Deguilio granted injunctions in two other cases, one brought by Winona Lake-based Grace College and Seminary and Biola University of La Mirada, Calif. and the other by the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, along with several other groups including Franciscan Alliance and University of St. Francis

That means Notre Dame was legally required as of Wednesday to provide the coverage, while Grace College and Seminary — as well as the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and Franciscan Alliance — were not. * * *

The three legal challenges in Indiana are among about 90 similar appeals recently filed in federal courts across the United States. More than a dozen of those cases generated preliminary rulings, with decisions running about 2-to-1 in favor of religious groups seeking temporary stays that blocked implementation of the mandate.

Only Notre Dame, among groups across the United States which were denied stays and subsequently appealed, was forced to comply Wednesday.

Paul Browne, a Notre Dame spokesman, said the third-party administrator for the university’s insurance program is notifying employees that a contraceptive program is available while the university appeals judge Simon’s denial of an injunction.

“At the same time,” he added, “we are notifying our employees that this coverage could be withdrawn if we win the appeal.”

A decision on the university’s appeal is not expected until later this month at the earliest — unless the Supreme Court steps in sooner.

If the high court takes up the case, it will be the second case on its docket challenging the mandate based on religious grounds.

The Supreme Court in November accepted a challenge to the mandate raised by Hobby Lobby. The issue in that case is whether a private company can refuse to provide the coverage based on the owners’ religious beliefs.

The new cases also oppose the contraceptive requirement but from the perspective of nonprofit organizations with religious affiliations that oppose the law based on beliefs of their faiths.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 2, 2014 09:20 AM
Posted to Courts in general