October 11, 2012 — The Roman Catholic Archdioceses of Atlanta and Savannah on Wednesday filed a lawsuit alleging that federal contraceptive coverage rules infringe on their religious beliefs, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Rankin, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/10). Christ the King Catholic School and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Atlanta also are plaintiffs in the case (Harrell, AP/CBS Atlanta, 10/10).
The suit claims that the rules will require religious institutions to provide access to and pay for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception.
It also states that the archdioceses cannot tell if they qualify for the "religious exemption" to the rules and that they would have to "submit to an intrusive and arbitrary governmental investigation" to find out (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/10).
The contraceptive coverage 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, 10/10).
Response to Catholic Lawsuits
In a recent response to a similar lawsuit filed by another archdiocese and a Catholic college, the Department of Justice said it is continuing to work with Catholic entities during the delay period and will propose and finalize a rule before any enforcement actions are taken. The Obama administration has said it will give religiously affiliated entities at least until Jan. 1, 2014 to come into compliance.
Jon O'Brien, president of the advocacy group Catholics for Choice, criticized the lawsuits. "It's obvious that the hierarchy in the Catholic church has really failed to convince Catholics in the pews to adhere to their very narrow understanding of human sexuality," he said, noting that 98% of sexually active Catholics use contraception. "Having failed to convince them, they are now resorting to lawsuits," O'Brien added (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/10).
Ill. Company Files Lawsuit
A private company in Illinois also has filed a lawsuit challenging the contraceptive coverage rules, CQ HealthBeat reports.
The owners of Korte & Luitjohan Contractors of Highland, Ill., allege that the rules violate their Catholic beliefs.
The American Center for Law and Justice, an antiabortion-rights legal organization, is representing the company. The group is also representing a Missouri company in a similar lawsuit that was dismissed last week (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 10/10).