Federal Judge in Brooklyn Blocks Enforcement of HHS Mandate Against Catholic Entities

Hope springs eternal for Catholic charity organizations opposed to the HHS Mandate and the recently enacted “accommodation” for religious organizations. A federal judge in Brooklyn issued an order blocking the enforcement of the HHS Mandate as it applies to several Catholic high schools, and a Catholic-run health insurer there.

The ruling reveals that the accommodation proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services, which requires Catholic entities that aren’t exempt from the Mandate, to provide abortion inducing drugs and sterilization procedures indirectly through their insurance carriers, violates their religious liberty. The case will likely be appealed, but the ruling is encouraging for those concerned about the burden the Mandate will impose on Catholic institutions. For more on this story, click here.



Posted: December 20, 2013

Pittsburgh Diocese/Catholic Charities Obtain Relief from HHS Mandate

Last week, a federal court in Western Pennsylvania blocked enforcement of the HHS mandate against the Diocese of Pittsburgh and Erie Pennsylvania, along with affiliated organizations insured under the diocesan health plan, including Catholic Charities of Western Pennsylvania among others. An appeal is expected.

The decision is important, because the Diocese itself is exempt from the mandate, but Catholic Charities isn’t. A similar challenge to the HHS mandate has brought by the Archdiocese of St. Louis and its affiliated Catholic Charities group there. For more information, click here.



Posted: December 6, 2013

Archdiocese Re-files Lawsuit Challenging HHS Mandate

The Archdiocese of St. Louis re-filed its lawsuit in federal court this week challenging the HHS mandate. A federal court judge dismissed the lawsuit last January, stating that the claim wasn’t “ripe” for consideration, because the mandate wasn’t actually in effect at the time the lawsuit was filed.

The Department of Health and Human Services issued a final rule on the mandate this summer, which exempts “churches and their integrated auxiliaries.” However, the exemption did not apply to Catholic Charities of St. Louis, an affiliate of the Archdiocese and an insured under the Archdiocesan health plan.

The re-filed suit challenges the failure of the final rule to exempt Catholic Charities, and the requirement under the final rule that the Archdiocese self-insurance health plan provide coverage to all Catholic Charity employees for contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacient drugs.
Meanwhile, a federal court in Pennsylvania this week granted an injunction in favor of the Diocese of Pittsburgh in a similar lawsuit.



Posted: November 22, 2013

St. Louis Judge Dismisses MO Lawmaker’s Challenge to HHS Mandate

St. Louis federal circuit court judge Jean Hamilton has dismissed a lawsuit brought by State Representative Paul Wieland challenging the HHS Mandate, ruling that he did not have legal standing to challenge the law. Wieland alleged in the lawsuit that as a result of the HHS mandate he has been denied the ability to opt out of having coverage in his state-issued health insurance plan for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs, which he objected to having included in his health plan and the plan covering his wife and minor daughters. Missouri law allowed individual employees to opt out of having such coverage in their health plans prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

The court ruled that Wieland did not have legal standing to challenge the law as an individual and that the proper parties were not named in the suit. Wieland’s attorney, Tim Belz of St. Louis, plans to appeal the ruling to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. Stay tuned for more.


Posted: November 8, 2013

Religious Leaders Call For Conscience Protections

This week – just prior to the Independence Day Celebration – over 100 prominent religious leaders issued an open letter entitled Standing Together for Religious Freedom. The letter calls on the Obama Administration and Congress to respect rights of conscience and religious freedom.

The letter calls attention to various threats to religious liberty, including the mandate that all employers provide health coverage for contraception, sterilizations and abortion drugs. At a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, chairman of the bishops Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, said:

“As the Catholic bishops have said from the very beginning, the underlying issue with the HHS mandate is not about any specific teaching. In fact, other signatories on the letter do not share our view on contraception and probably disagree with us in many other ways, but they understand the core religious freedom issue at stake here.”

Signers of the letter include representatives from the Southern Baptist Convention, the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and Orthodox Christians and Jews.

U.S. House Votes to Ban Abortions After 20 Weeks

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill this week banning abortion nationwide after 20 weeks gestation, citing the gruesome nature of late term abortion revealed by the recent Kermit Gosnell trial and scientific evidence that unborn infants are capable of feeling pain in utero. Although the Senate is unlikely to take up the bill and President Obama has promised to veto it, passage of the bill is significant in raising awareness of the ability of unborn children who experience pain during an abortion procedure.

Plan B Over the Counter: What are the Implications?

St. Louis Review reporter Jennifer Brinker recently discussed the implications of a recent federal court order requiring the FDA to make Plan B emergency contraceptives available over the counter to all girls 10 years of age and older with Theresa Prosser, a St. Louis professor of pharmacy and health policy. Prosser expressed concern that customers might purchase Plan B thinking it is harmless without getting any information about its how it works, or its potential mechanism of action. Since the drug will be available over the counter, she said, no counseling from a pharmacist would be required. For more on the interview with Prof. Prosser, click here.

Ask the Governor to Sign HB 400 and Ban Telemedicine Abortions in Missouri

The Missouri Catholic Conference is asking members of its Citizen’s Network to contact Governor Nixon to sign HB 400, a bill that passed the general assembly that would ban telemedicine abortions from being performed in Missouri. Click here to see the Action Alert issued on HB 400.

Bishops Call for Second Fortnight for Freedom

As we approach the summer and an August 1 deadline for the implementation of the HHS contraceptive mandate and a potentially culture-changing U.S. Supreme Court decision on the definition of marriage at the end of June, the USCCB is asking faithful Catholics to participate in a second Fortnight for Freedom June 24th to July 1st.

The purpose of the fortnight for freedom is to pray and fast for the sake of renewing a culture favorable to life, marriage, and the protection of religious liberty. For more information about how you can get involved in the Fortnight for Freedom in your area, click here.

Legislature Passes Telemedicine Abortion Ban

The Missouri General Assembly passed legislation last week that will prevent the spread of telemedicine abortions in Missouri. HB 400, sponsored by Representative Jeanie Riddle (R-Mokane), passed the House by a vote of 115-39 and the Senate by a vote of 23-7.

This bill will prevent Planned Parenthood and others from setting up clinics in remote portions of Missouri to perform telemedicine abortions. The legislation requires that a physician be present to administer RU-486, the drug most commonly used in non-surgical abortions, and will stop any efforts by Planned Parenthood and others to perform telemedicine abortions in Missouri.

Women seeking a medical abortion currently take RU-486 at the clinic and are then given a dose to take at home, 24 to 48 hours later. Under the legislation, the physician prescribing or dispensing an abortion-inducing drug would need to be present for the initial dose.

In Iowa there are 17 clinics that perform these abortions via video conferencing. The passage of this legislation ensures that that will not happen in Missouri. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk.