October 10, 2012 — Two Baptist universities in Texas on Tuesday filed a lawsuit alleging that the federal contraceptive coverage rules infringe on their religious beliefs, CQ HealthBeat reports.
East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Texas, and Houston Baptist University specifically object to providing coverage for emergency contraception. They believe EC can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, which they say constitutes an abortion.
The schools' religious beliefs "forbid them from participating in, providing access to, paying for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting abortion," according to the suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 10/9).
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, 10/4).
After the delay period, religiously affiliated institutions will likely be able to opt to have an insurer directly offer the coverage to women. The suit argues that the accommodation is irrelevant to the plaintiffs because they consider any coverage to be a violation of their religious beliefs.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is involved in several similar suits, is representing the colleges (CQ HealthBeat, 10/9).