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Catholic organizations file suit to block prescription contraceptive rule


WASHINGTON—More than 40 Catholic organizations, including the archdioceses of New York and Washington as well as Catholic University of America, filed suit in federal courts to block implementation of part of a final Department of Health and Human Services rule that will require health insurance coverage of prescription contraceptives.

Under that part of the regulation, health insurers of nonprofit affiliates of religious organizations, such as universities and health care systems, will be required to offer the coverage at no cost. That part of the regulation would apply for plan years starting on or after Aug. 1, 2013.

The administration also is developing a rule that would apply to religious organizations' affiliates that self-insure their health care plans.

On Monday, a total of 12 suits were filed by Catholic or Catholic-related organizations to block the requirement. In the suit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Archdiocese of Washington and several other organizations that joined the suit said the mandate would require Catholic entities to “violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

U.S. “history and tradition, embodied in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution...safeguard religious entities from such overbearing and oppressive governmental action,” according to the suit.

The litigation comes after a warning last week by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that it would file suit if the administration did not rescind the rule or provide an exemption for entities that object to the requirement.

Other parts of the rule require nonreligious organizations to comply for plan years that begin on or after Aug. 1, 2012. The administration, though, exempted religious organizations, such as churches that primarily employ those with the same beliefs, from the mandate.

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