NEW YORK (AP) — Dozens of Roman Catholic dioceses, schools and other institutions sued the Obama administration Monday over a government mandate requiring most employers to provide birth control coverage as part of their employee health plans.
The lawsuits filed in federal courts around the country represent the largest push against the mandate since President Barack Obama announced the policy in January. Among those suing are the University of Notre Dame, the Archdioceses of Washington, New York and Michigan, and the Catholic University of America.
“We have tried negotiation with the administration and legislation with the Congress, and we’ll keep at it, but there’s still no fix,” said New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) adopted the rule in an effort to implement the preventive health benefits package requirements in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA). Last year, an advisory panel from the Institute of Medicine, which advises the federal government, recommended including birth control on the list of PPACA covered services, partly because it promotes maternal and child health by allowing women to space their pregnancies.
However, faith leaders from across religious traditions protested, saying the mandate violates religious freedom. The original rule includes a religious exemption that allows houses of worship to opt-out of the mandate, but it keeps the requirement in place for religiously affiliated charities.
In response to the political furor, Obama offered to soften the rule so that insurers would pay for birth control instead of religious groups. However, the bishops and others have said that the accommodation doesn’t go far enough.