National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

Catholic Dioceses Petition SCOTUS To Hear Challenge to Contraceptive Coverage Accommodations

Catholic Dioceses Petition SCOTUS To Hear Challenge to Contraceptive Coverage Accommodations

June 2, 2015 — On Friday, the Catholic dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie, Pa., petitioned the Supreme Court to hear their challenge to the federal government's contraceptive coverage accommodations for not-for-profits that hold themselves out as religious, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

According to the Post-Gazette, several similar suits on the issue are pending and could end up being appealed to the Supreme Court (Smith, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 5/29).

Background

The accommodation aims to ensure that enrollees in health plans for not-for-profits that hold themselves out as religious and oppose contraception still have access to contraceptive coverage benefits under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148). The accommodation enables such not-for-profits to notify their insurer or third-party administrator of their objection so the insurer or third-party administrator can facilitate contraceptive coverage for members of their health plans.

In separate lawsuits filed in 2013, Geneva College -- an institution affiliated with the Reformed Presbyterian Church -- and the Catholic Dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie, along with their affiliated schools and charities, challenged the accommodation as inadequate. Separate courts granted Geneva College a preliminary injunction and the dioceses a permanent injunction. The Department of Justice in February 2014 then appealed both cases to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

In February of this year, a three-judge panel for the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court unanimously ruled that "the accommodation places no substantial burden on the appellees." As a result, the panel found that the accommodation does not violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (PL 103-141). In March, the Catholic Diocese of Erie asked the full 3rd Circuit to review the panel's decision (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/31). The 3rd Circuit denied that appeal.

In April, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito granted the dioceses a temporary stay against the requirements while the case continues (Aupperlee, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 5/29).