A federal judge today granted a preliminary injunction to organizations associated with the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Diocese of Erie against Affordable Care Act requirements that their insurers cover contraception and similar services.
The decision is almost certain to be appealed to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but it marks an important early win for the church groups in their case against federal officials and agencies.
The Affordable Care Act requires that most employers provide coverage for their employees starting Jan. 1 that includes contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. Churches are exempt, but church-related nonprofit organizations like Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh are not.
The nonprofit agencies have to file objections to the coverage with their insurance administrators. The administrators then have to provide the coverage to the employees anyway, at no charge to the organizations.
Failure to provide the coverage can result in fines that the diocesan organizations claim would total millions of dollars a year.
U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab wrote in his 65-page opinion that the “sanctity of human life from conception to natural death and the dignity of all persons are central tenets of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
“This belief necessarily prohibits providing, subsidizing, initiating, or facilitating insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization services, contraceptives, and related educational and counseling services,” he wrote.
The contraception mandate “would be unequally applied to Plaintiffs and would result in some schools, organizations, etc., being exempt from the mandate, while other organizations would not,” the judge wrote. “The result would cause a division between the Dioceses and their nonprofit, religious affiliated/related spiritual/charitable/educational organizations which fulfill portions of Dioceses’ mission.”