In court filing, Diocese of Pittsburgh outlines objections Affordable Care Act

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Attorneys for the Diocese of Pittsburgh filed a court brief late Tuesday detailing their reasons for seeking an injunction stopping the enforcement of new contraception coverage requirements as they related to church-affiliated nonprofit groups.

The Affordable Care Act, according to the brief, "compels [diocese-related organizations] to take affirmative actions that trigger and facilitate the provision of abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, contraception, and related education and counseling ... contrary to their seriously held beliefs."

The act requires nearly all large employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception and other reproduction-related services, but exempts churches.

Nonprofit groups with religious affiliations can file statements of objection to the coverage. Then their insurance administrators must provide the coverage, at no charge to the employer, and can seek reimbursement of costs through federal exchanges.

"Effectively, the [act] writes contraceptive coverage into Plaintiffs' plans in invisible ink," wrote attorney Paul M. Pohl, who is leading the legal challenge for the diocese.

He wrote that the act "for the first time in history" tries to separate organizations like Catholic charities and schools from the First Amendment protections that apply to churches.

Mr. Pohl also wrote that the coverage requirement doesn't advance a compelling government interest and comes in the "absence of an actual problem in need of solving."

Attorneys for the Department of Justice have argued that the contraception coverage mandate does not impose any burden on the church-affiliated organizations. The American Civil Liberties Union last week filed a friend-of-the-court brief siding with the government, saying that the right to coverage for employees trumps any First Amendment argument the church-related institutions are asserting.

U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab has scheduled a Tuesday hearing on the request by the diocese for a preliminary injunction.


Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord.

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