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Catholic Groups’ Can Pursue Contraceptive Coverage Suit

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York and two other Catholic entities can proceed with their legal challenge to a provision of the Obama administration’s health-care law requiring group health insurers to cover contraceptives.

U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan in Brooklyn, New York, refused the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s request to dismiss the case, ruling that the archdiocese, which includes 370 parishes and insures 9,000 people, is facing impending injuries from the rule, even though it doesn’t take effect until January 2014, according to a court filing yesterday.

The government said the case should be dismissed because the coverage mandate isn’t causing imminent injury and there will be changes to the requirements to accommodate the interests of religious organizations, according to the filing. Cogan ruled that the archdiocese doesn’t have to take the government’s word that the changes will address its opposition to the mandate.

“Plaintiffs here have demonstrated how the enormous changes to their plans required by the coverage mandate currently exacerbate their preparation costs,” Cogan said. “They have also demonstrated that the imminent operation of the coverage mandate has already caused them to divert funds from their ministries.”

Health Plan

The archdiocese operates a self-insured health plan that bars contraception coverage except for other, medically necessary purposes.

The contraceptive requirement is part of President Barack Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, intended to created almost-universal health-care insurance coverage.

Forty-three Catholic organizations, including the archdioceses of New York and Washington, as well as the University of Notre Dame and the Catholic University of America, filed 12 lawsuits earlier this year in courts across the country, arguing that the mandate violates the freedom of religion guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

The case is Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York v. Sebelius, 12-02542, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

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