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Federal Judge Grants Injunction to Pa. College in Contraceptive Coverage Lawsuit

Federal Judge Grants Injunction to Pa. College in Contraceptive Coverage Lawsuit

June 21, 2013 — A federal judge on Tuesday granted a temporary injunction allowing a Christian college in Pennsylvania to avoid complying with the federal contraceptive coverage rules, the AP/Pottstown Mercury reports.

Gregory Baylor -- an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian civil rights group -- said the judge's ruling is the first time a not-for-profit group has obtained an injunction in a lawsuit against the rules. The suit is similar to dozens of others filed by religiously affiliated employers, according to the AP/Mercury (AP/Pottstown Mercury, 6/19).

The contraceptive coverage rules, which are being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), require that most health plans cover contraceptive services. Religious entities such as churches and other houses of worship are exempt from the requirements. In February, the Obama administration proposed an accommodation for religiously affiliated employers that would ensure that their health plans do not have to pay for contraceptive coverage. However, the accommodation was not extended to for-profit businesses.

Background on Geneva Case

ADF last year filed a lawsuit on behalf of Geneva College, arguing that the federal rules requiring the school to provide certain forms of contraception is "directly at odds" with the school's religious values. The school was founded by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.

Geneva sought an exemption from the rules, contending that the rules violate federal law and the First Amendment rights of the college and other religiously affiliated institutions.

However, the lawsuit was dismissed at the time because a federal judge agreed with the Department of Justice that the college was not suffering immediate harm, because federal officials had announced the regulations would be changed to accommodate institutions against parts of the law they found morally objectionable.

U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti decided to reinstate the lawsuit because Geneva's May 13 deadline to inform students about whether they will be dropped from the school's insurance plan precedes the federal government's Aug. 1 deadline to finalize the disputed rule (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/13).