LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Seven states asked a federal judge Thursday to block an Obama administration mandate that requires birth control coverage for employees of religious-affiliated hospitals, schools and outreach programs.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court of Nebraska, alleges that the new rule violates the First Amendment rights of groups that object to the use of contraceptives.
It marks the first legal challenge filed by states.
The rule, announced in connection with efforts to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA), has come under fire from religious groups that object to the use of contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. In response to the criticism, Obama administration officials have said they will shift the requirement from the employers to health insurers themselves.
The lawsuit was filed by attorneys general from Nebraska, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas. Three Nebraska-based groups — Catholic Social Services, Pius X Catholic High School and the Catholic Mutual Relief Society of America — are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, a Republican who is running for U.S. Senate, said the administration’s regulation “forces of millions of Americans to choose between following religious convictions and complying with federal law.
“We will not stand idly by while out constitutionally guaranteed liberties are discarded by an administration that has sworn to uphold them,” he said.