Catholic Diocese, Schools in Nashville Sue HHS Abortion Mandate

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 13, 2012   |   1:22PM   |   Nashville, TN

The Diocese of Nashville and seven of the Catholic entities operating in Middle Tennessee have filed suit in Federal court to block the implementation of mandates by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

They do not want to have the follow the HHS mandate that requires religious groups to pay for and refer women for drugs that can cause abortions, birth control and sterilizations that violate their religious views.

In addition to the Catholic Diocese of Nashville, Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Father Ryan High School, Pope John Paul II High School, Mary Queen of Angels, Villa Maria Manor, and St. Mary Villa along with Aquinas College are all a part to the lawsuit.

There was broad support within each of their boards of directors for filing the suits which are similar to more than a dozen others filed around the country in late May and August, according to Rick Musacchio, Director of Communications for the Diocese of Nashville.

“It is particularly important for us to file this action at this time because the insurance plan covering Mary Queen of Angels, Villa Maria Manor and St. Mary Villa were up for renewal on August,” Musacchio said. “Because of the mandates enacted by the Department of Health and Human Services, they have been unable to establish broad health insurance coverage for their employees consistent with Catholic beliefs.  Currently they have to include services that are morally objectionable.”

These three corporations are among the first in the nation to renew health insurance plans since the Obama administration established the mandate. The other entities will face the same issue as their plans come up for renewal and as the current law takes full effect over the course of the next year and the insurance carrier says they must include the coverage due to the new law.

Musacchio said Mary Queen of Angels, St. Mary Villa, and Villa Maria Manor, who share the same plan, discovered in November, 2011 their health benefits plan coverage had mistakenly included coverage for oral contraception. They immediately undertook efforts to remove the objectionable services from their plan.

Because their initial efforts to remove the coverage from their plan were unsuccessful, the plan was not eligible for the one-year “temporary enforcement safe harbor” from the HHS mandate when it was renewed on August 1, 2012.

During negotiations for its current health plan year, Mary Queen of Angels, St. Mary Villa Child Development Center, and Villa Maria Manor sought to have all of the objectionable services excluded from their employee health benefits plan. Their insurer, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Tennessee, informed the organizations that it was unable to exclude coverage for oral contraceptives from the plan because of the requirements of the mandate.

“It is not about whether people have a right to abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception.  Those services are and will continue to be freely available in the United States, and nothing prevents the Government itself from making them more widely available,” the suit says. “But the right to such services does not authorize the Government to force the Plaintiffs to violate their own consciences by making them provide, pay for, and/or facilitate those services to others, contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

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The new lawsuit follows one announced yesterday by Hobby Lobby, the first Evangelical-run business to sue the Obama Administration over the mandate.

There are now 28 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate, which is a regulation under the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”). These HHS challenges were not affected by the Supreme Court’s June 28th ruling on the constitutionality of the “individual mandate.”

The Becket Fund led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, and along with Hobby Lobby represents: Wheaton College, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, and Ave Maria University.