November 19, 2012 — A federal judge on Friday granted a preliminary injunction to the owners of a Christian publishing company who filed a lawsuit against the federal contraceptive coverage rules, the AP/Washington Post reports (Frommer, AP/Washington Post, 11/16).
The 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.
The lawsuit -- filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of Tyndale House Publishers -- states that the company has been denied a "religious employer" accommodation because HHS maintains that any for-profit company does not qualify as a religious entity. According to court filings, Tyndale is an incorporated business that is owned by Tyndale House Foundation, a not-for-profit that "receives 96.5% of all of Tyndale's distributed profits."
The suit argues that providing contraceptive coverage violates the company's conscience (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/4). Specifically, the plaintiffs object to providing coverage of emergency contraception and intrauterine devices, which they consider equivalent to abortion.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton noted that the federal government had broad, compelling interests to ensure women's access to health care, but he said the case centers on "whether the government has shown that the application of the contraceptive coverage mandate to the plaintiffs furthers those compelling interests."
Walton said the government did not provide specific proof that the types of contraceptives Tyndale opposes would further its compelling interests. The contraceptive coverage requirement "affirmatively compels the plaintiffs to violate their religious beliefs" if they wish to avoid penalties for noncompliance, the judge wrote.
The decision only applies to the Tyndale suit and does not affect other cases. Walton ordered the parties to return to court for arguments on whether to issue a permanent injunction, but he did not set a specific date for those proceedings (AP/Washington Post, 11/16).