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Judge Allows N.Y. Diocese To Proceed With Contraceptive Coverage Lawsuit

Judge Allows N.Y. Diocese To Proceed With Contraceptive Coverage Lawsuit

December 6, 2012 — A U.S. District Judge on Wednesday ruled that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York and two other Catholic groups may proceed with a lawsuit challenging the federal contraceptive coverage rules, Bloomberg/Newsmax reports (Bloomberg News/Newsmax, 12/5). The judge dismissed claims from two other plaintiffs in the suit -- the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., and the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rockville Centre -- because they did not prove that the rules will affect them (Dye, Reuters/Chicago Tribune, 12/5).

Judge Brian Cogan rejected HHS' argument that the lawsuit is premature because the remaining plaintiffs do not face an immediate threat of injury (Bloomberg News/Newsmax, 12/5).

The government has given religiously affiliated employers until August 2013 to come into compliance with the contraceptive coverage rules while it continues to work with them on accommodations (Reuters/Chicago Tribune, 12/5). The rules, which are being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), require most health plans issued or renewed after Aug. 1 to cover contraceptive services without copayments or deductibles (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/26).

Judge's Decision

Cogan said the archdiocese had "demonstrated that the imminent operation of the coverage mandate has already caused them to divert funds from their ministries" (Bloomberg News/Newsmax, 12/5). The archdiocese said it could incur about $200 million in annual penalties if the rules are enforced.

Cogan added that the possibility of future changes to the rules should not prevent the plaintiffs from proceeding with the suit. "There is no 'Trust us, changes are coming' clause in the Constitution," he wrote.

The New York archdiocese is one of the largest in the U.S., and about 9,000 of its 10,000 employees are covered under its health plan (Reuters/Chicago Tribune, 12/5). The organization has a self-insured plan that covers contraception only for non-contraceptive purposes (Bloomberg News/Newsmax, 12/5).