Geneva College can offer students a health insurance plan that does not cover intrauterine devices or morning-after and week-after anti-pregnancy medications while it continues to challenge the new federal health care law that requires insurers to pay for such options, a judge decided Tuesday.
Judge Joy Flowers Conti's ruling comes more than a month after the Beaver Falls school was re-added as a plaintiff in the case bearing its name, Geneva College v. Sebelius.
Geneva, a Christian college, sued in February 2012 and later added Wayne L. Helper and Carrie E. Kolesar -- the father-daughter co-owners of Seneca Hardwood Lumber Co. in Cranberry and a related sawmill company, WLH Enterprises -- as plaintiffs.
Their case is one of about 55 filed in federal courts across the country challenging the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.
Tuesday's injunction is significant because it was the first obtained by a nonprofit, said Gregory Baylor, an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing the college in the challenge.
"It does give us some cause for optimism in this case ... at least with this district judge," he said.
The injunction granted in the Western District of Pennsylvania does not apply to employee health insurance plans, as the health care act will not require employee plans to cover IUDs and anti-pregnancy medication until January. Geneva provides contraceptive insurance to its employees.
In mid-April, Judge Flowers Conti granted a preliminary injunction that allowed the Helper family to avoid the federal rule.
While Geneva does not oppose contraception, its president, Kenneth Smith, said when the suit was filed, "It's about the government requiring us and other religious organizations to provide services against which we have a religious and morally based conviction."
The health insurance offered to employees of the Helper family's companies "has for multiple years omitted abortifacients, contraception, sterilization and related education and counseling," according to court filings.
The family, which is Catholic, contends the health care act would force them "to pay for and otherwise facilitate the use of morally objectionable drugs, devices" and counseling.
Lexi Belculfine: email@example.com or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc.