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Universities Appeal to Supreme Court in Challenge to Contraceptive Coverage Rules

Universities Appeal to Supreme Court in Challenge to Contraceptive Coverage Rules

July 10, 2015 — Several universities on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to review a federal appeals court ruling that overturned an injunction against the federal contraceptive coverage rules, the Houston Chronicle reports.

According to the Chronicle, attorneys with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed the appeal on behalf of Houston Baptist University, East Texas Baptist University and the Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania (Turner, Houston Chronicle, 7/8).

Background

The contraceptive coverage rules, which are being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), require most employers to offer coverage to their workers. The rules include an exemption for houses of worship and an accommodation for not-for-profits that hold themselves out as religious and oppose contraception.

The accommodation enables such not-for-profits to notify their insurers or third-party administrators of their objection so the insurers or third-party administrators can facilitate contraceptive coverage for members of their health plans. To claim the accommodation, the not-for-profits may either complete a form to send to the insurers or third-party administrators or send a letter to HHS stating that they object to offering contraceptive coverage in their health plans.

In December 2013, a federal judge granted East Texas Baptist and Houston Baptist a preliminary injunction against the mandate. The two universities had argued that the rules violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (PL 103-141).

In June, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision granting the preliminary injunction and ruled that contraceptive coverage rules do not place a "substantial burden" on the organizations' exercise of religion because a third party is providing the contraceptives (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/24).