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Catholic University, Archdiocese Of Washington Sue HHS Over Health Insurance Mandate

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WASHINGTON -- A coalition of Roman Catholic entities in the nation's capital has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in an attempt to block the implementation of a health care reform mandate forcing the institutions to provide health insurance covering contraception and other medical procedures that run counter to church teachings.

The Jones Day law firm, which filed suit in United States District Court for the District of Columbia, is representing the coalition that includes Catholic University of America, the Archdiocese of Washington, the Consortium of Catholic Academies, Archbishop Carroll High School and Catholic Charities of D.C.

As The Associated Press reported, dozens of Roman Catholic institutions sued the Obama administration over its health insurance mandate on Monday, including the University of Notre Dame and the Archdiocese of New York.

Catholic University's president, John Garvey, said in a statement released late Monday morning:

On August 1, 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed a rule requiring most health insurance plans to cover, at no added cost to subscribers, sterilization procedures and prescription contraceptives, including pills that act after fertilization to induce abortions. The rule included an exemption for “religious employers,” but that term is defined so narrowly that it excludes Catholic universities and most other Catholic institutions.

On January 20, 2012, HHS announced its intention to make the rule final. Almost immediately there arose a public furor. In an effort to moderate the reaction, President Obama proposed that HHS might require insurance companies to pay for the mandated services in the first instance. Such a revision would not solve our moral dilemma. In the President’s scenario the cost of mandated services would be rolled into the cost of an insurance policy, which federal law requires Catholic University and other religious organizations to buy. The only change the “accommodation” offers is that the insurance company, rather than the University, would notify subscribers that the policy covers the mandated services. In the end the University, its employees, and its students will be forced to pay for the prescriptions and services we find objectionable.

We have filed this lawsuit today only after concluding that time is running out and there are no other viable options. The HHS mandate was made final on February 15, 2012, and is now law. Efforts to overturn it in Congress have failed. The White House has refused to compromise on the central issues that cause us such grave concern. For some religious institutions, the law will take effect August 1 of this year; for others, August 1, 2013. In any event, our lawsuit will take time to work its way through the court system. Unless we can get judicial relief, we will soon have to take steps to conform to a rule we view as immoral.

Read the legal complaint here.

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