November 26, 2012 — The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee on Wednesday ruled that the Catholic Diocese of Nashville and other Catholic employers in the area lack standing to challenge the federal contraceptive coverage rules because they have not been harmed by the regulations, BNA reports (Sturges, BNA, 11/26).
The plaintiffs in the case included the Nashville diocese, Aquinas College, Catholic Charities, Father Ryan High School, Pope John Paul II High School, child care provider St. Mary Villa, and senior housing providers Mary Queen of Angels and Villa Maria Manor. They argued that the contraceptive coverage rules violate their Catholic beliefs.
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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/14).
Details of Ruling
The court said that the plaintiffs qualify for the one-year delay period, meaning that the "regulations, in their current form, will not be enforced against Plaintiffs." Therefore, the plaintiffs cannot prove any harm directly traceable to the rules, the court said.
Further, "[b]ecause the preventive services regulations are in the process of being amended, they are by definition a tentative agency position in which the agency expressly reserves the possibility that its opinion might change and, therefore, are not fit for judicial decision at this time," the court added.
The ruling cited a decision in August by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which dismissed a lawsuit filed by Wheaton College on similar grounds (BNA, 11/26).