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Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Courts - "Catholic groups appeal to Supreme Court re ACA contraceptive mandate"

Updating this ILB entry from yesterday, headed "Judge stalls contraception insurance mandate for diocese", which detailed ND Indiana opinions from two different judges (to quote again from Madeline Buckley of the South Bend Tribune):

A federal judge has granted the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and a number of other Catholic organizations relief from parts of the Affordable Care Act, writing that the religious liberty arguments at play in the lawsuit have some likelihood of success.

U.S. District Judge Jon DeGuilio granted a preliminary injunction Friday to "prevent the possibility of any unjust enforcement" until the courts can rule on the argument regarding religious freedom.

A judge ruled against the University of Notre Dame in a similar request for relief earlier this month. The university filed an appeal of the judge's decision.

Today the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has a story headed "Grace College gets temporary reprieve on birth control mandate." Brian Francisco reports:
A second religious organization in northeast Indiana has won a temporary reprieve from the contraception mandate of the federal health care law.

Grace College and Seminary of Winona Lake, along with Biola University in La Mirada, Calif., were granted a preliminary injunction they sought from a federal court against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The decision allows the schools to avoid providing their employees and students with medical insurance that covers birth-control methods and sterilization procedures. The contraception insurance requirement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is scheduled to take effect today.

U.S. District Judge Jon DeGuilio of the Northern District of Indiana in South Bend granted the injunction Friday, the same day he approved a similar request from the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and six affiliates in Indiana and Illinois.

Last night in a very brief order Justice Sonia Sotomayor blocked enforcement of the mandate against the Denver Little Sisters of the Poor. From the order (via How Appealing):
IT IS ORDERED that respondents are temporarily enjoined from
enforcing against applicants the contraceptive coverage requirements
imposed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 42 U. S. C.
§ 300gg-13(a)(4), and related regulations pending the receipt of a response
and further order of the undersigned or of the Court. The response to the
application is due Friday, January 3, 2014, by 10 a.m.
As Steve Kenny and Robert Pear report in the NY Times:
WASHINGTON — Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Tuesday temporarily blocked the Obama administration from forcing some religious-affiliated groups to provide health insurance coverage of birth control or face penalties as part of the Affordable Care Act.

Acting at the request of an order of nuns in Colorado, Justice Sotomayor issued the stay just hours before the requirement was to go into effect on New Year’s Day. She gave the Obama administration until Friday to respond to the Supreme Court.

Justice Sotomayor’s order applies to the nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and other Roman Catholic nonprofit groups that use the same health plan, known as the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust. The groups’ lawsuit is one of many challenging the federal requirement for contraceptive coverage, but a decision on the merits of that case by the full Supreme Court could have broader implications. * * *

The contraception requirement has been one of the most controversial aspects of the health law since the Obama administration first announced it in mid-2011, along with other requirements it characterized as preventive care. Religious opponents of abortion have objected especially strongly to the requirement to provide emergency contraception pills, like Plan B, although most studies show that the drug works by preventing fertilization, not by inducing abortion.

In an effort to compromise, the administration said that women who work for nonprofit religious groups that object to birth control could receive separate coverage not paid for by the employers. It refused, however, to offer accommodations to secular businesses whose owners have religious objections to contraception.

That has led to a separate group of lawsuits. And last month, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a pair of cases on whether corporations may refuse to provide insurance coverage for contraception.

ILB: There is a range of challenges here, going from religious entities like the Little Sisters on the one hand (Roman Catholic universities, schools, and charity organizations) to a number of for-profit businesses whose owners are Catholic, such as Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, on the other. See this Nov. 26th ILB post re the SCOTUS agreeing to hear the challenges of the two private businesses.

This story, headed "Catholic groups appeal to Supreme Court vs. ACA contraceptive mandate,"from Gant Daily (out of Clearfield, Pennsylvania), provides a good overview of the numerous challenges from Catholic groups.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 1, 2014 09:44 AM
Posted to Courts in general