Ruling on birth control mandate appealed

Federal attorneys ask for review

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Attorneys for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Labor on Tuesday appealed two decisions by federal judges in Pittsburgh that undercut the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate.

Department of Justice attorneys asked the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti's December decision granting a preliminary injunction in favor of Geneva College, and U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab's permanent injunction for various Roman Catholic organizations.

Judge Conti found that Geneva College need not provide its employees or students with coverage for contraception, abortion-inducing drugs and other "preventive services," while litigation on the subject continues.

Judge Schwab granted a similar, but permanent, injunction against the mandate to the dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie and related nonprofits.

The act requires that most employers provide coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.

Churches are exempt. Religious nonprofits get an "accommodation" under which they tell their insurance administrator that they object to the coverage.

The insurance administrator must provide the coverage to the employees at no charge to the employer, and seek federal reimbursement for costs.

Both judges were receptive to arguments that the accommodation compels church-related organizations to take steps that would cause the provision of services to which they are deeply opposed.

The lawsuits now become part of a raft of similar cases before appeals courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rich Lord:, 412-263-1542 or on Twitter @richelord. First Published February 11, 2014 1:36 PM

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