Forty-three Catholic Organizations filed lawsuits yesterday in 12 federal courts arguing that the Obama Administration’s regulation that requires employers to include contraception coverage in their healthcare plans violates the employers’ religious freedom. The Obama Administration, in an accommodation, made clear that if a religiously-affiliated institute objects, the insurance company will provide the coverage for contraception directly to the employee or student without institutional involvement. The regulation requiring birth control coverage without co-pays or deductibles is a part of the preventive care package of the Affordable Care Act that goes into effect August 2012. The Catholic Bishops have objected to the administration’s compromise.
The lawsuits were filed by the Archdioceses of New York, Washington, and Saint Louis, as well as the Dioceses of Dallas, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Rockville Centre (New York), and Springfield (Illinois). Two Catholic universities, the University of Notre Dame and the Catholic University of America, and a Catholic publication, Our Sunday Visitor, filed suits as well. The lawsuits named the Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services as defendants. All of the plaintiffs will be represented by the law firm of Jones Day, pro bono.
The Obama Administration did not comment on the lawsuits, because they are pending litigation, but the White House did provide reporters with the comments the President made when he announced the accommodation in February. In his speech, President Obama said, “these employers will not have to pay for, or provide, contraceptive services. But women who work at these institutions will have access to free contraceptive services, just like other women.” In response to the lawsuits, Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood said, “This isn’t a religious or political issue, it’s a medical issue, and that’s where we should keep it.” She also added that “it is unbelievable that in the year 2012 we have to fight for access to birth control.”
The Associated Press 5/22/12; The New York Times 5/21/12; NPR 5/21/12; ThinkProgress 5/21/12