A federal judge approved a temporary injunction that exempts two Christian colleges, one in Michigan and the other in Iowa, from an Affordable Care Act mandate requiring their employees’ health insurance plans pay for certain contraceptives.
U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett’s ruling in an Iowa court is being hailed as a victory for religious freedom by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian law group that represented Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, MI, and Dordt College in Sioux Center, IA, The Associated Press/Detroit Free Press reports.
Christian colleges should “remain free to operate according to their defining beliefs,” Gregory S. Baylor, one of the lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement. The colleges had argued the mandate violated their religious freedoms.
The colleges said their employee health plans cover most contraceptives, but they took issue at being required to cover “the morning after pill,” which they consider a form of abortion and therefore a violation of their defining principles,the Des Moines Register said.
In granting the temporary injunction, Bennett noted the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on a similar case involving the Hobby Lobby craft store chain. Hobby Lobby’s conservative Christian owners object to IUDs and morning-after pills because they interfere with the creation of life once an egg is fertilized, NPR reported.
Bennett said the greatest harm to the defendant U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in granting the injunction is that the agency would possibly have to wait a few months to enforce the mandate if the Supreme Court justices give Hobby Lobby an unfavorable ruling.
Bennett also cited a June 1 deadline for the colleges to comply with the mandate.
A Planned Parenthood spokeswoman in Iowa said employers shouldn’t have the right to deny coverage – something the Obama administration allowed under a compromise designed to appease critics who objected to the mandate on religious grounds.
“Every woman’s health needs are as unique as she is,” Planned Parenthood of the Heartland spokeswoman Angie Remington wrote in an email to the Des Moines Register. “A woman takes birth control for any number of reasons other than family planning, including to control certain medical conditions or prevent pregnancy due to a serious health risk.
"When employers refuse to cover birth control as a part of their employees' benefits, this becomes a health-care issue and an economic issue for a woman and her family, especially if she is struggling to make ends meet," Remington said.