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Mo. College Latest To Sue Over Contraceptive Coverage Rules; Decision in Multistate Suit Appealed

Mo. College Latest To Sue Over Contraceptive Coverage Rules; Decision in Multistate Suit Appealed

September 17, 2012 — A Christian college in Missouri announced it would file a lawsuit on Monday challenging the federal contraceptive coverage rules being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The College of the Ozarks said it would join other religiously affiliated schools, including the University of Notre Dame and the Catholic University of America, in challenging the requirement (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17).

The contraceptive coverage rules 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, 9/14).

In a statement, the College of the Ozarks said it objects to the requirement "on the basis of its religious beliefs ... as it relates to elective abortion, abortifacient drugs, and education and counseling about these subjects." The college is religiously affiliated but does not meet the requirements for an exemption or for the one-year "safe harbor" period, according to the statement.

The suit will request "protection so that it is not placed in the untenable position of choosing to obey the law or ignore its religious beliefs," the statement said (OzarksFirst, 9/17).

States, Catholic Groups Appeal Court Decision

In related news, seven states, three Catholic organizations and two individuals on Friday filed an appeal of a federal judge's dismissal of their lawsuit challenging the contraceptive coverage rules, the Texas Tribune reports (Aaronson, Texas Tribune, 9/14).

In July, U.S. District Court Judge Warren Urbom ruled that the suit was premature because the plaintiffs do not face an immediate threat of having to offer coverage, given that the Obama administration agreed to work with religiously affiliated entities and has delayed enforcement of the rules until August 2013 for them (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/18).