July 17 A Nebraska federal judge on Tuesday
dismissed a lawsuit brought by seven states against the Obama
administration's new healthcare policy that requires employers
to provide birth-control coverage to employees.
U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom concluded that the
plaintiffs did not face immediate harm and therefore could not
sue to block the part of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 that
requires employers to include free birth control in their
The Nebraska attorney general filed the suit in February on
behalf of six other states, two Catholic individuals and three
Catholic non-profit institutions. The suit was one of around two
dozen filed across the country by religious organizations
accusing the federal government of forcing them to support
contraception, sterilization and birth control in violation of
their religious beliefs or face steep fines.
The states - which include Texas, Ohio, Florida, South
Carolina, Oklahoma and Michigan - argued that the law threatened
their budgets by giving religious employers an incentive to stop
providing health insurance coverage to their employees to avoid
the requirements of the rule. That would drive up enrollment in
the states' Medicaid programs, they contended.
But the judge concluded that the alleged harms were too
remote and hypothetical.
The federal government has carved out an exemption for
religious employers, announcing that insurance companies would
cover the cost of birth control for their coverage plans. In
addition, the government has delayed enforcement of the rule
until Aug. 1, 2013, while the Department of Health and Human
Services figures out how the accommodation for religious
employers will work.
Katherine Spohn, a lawyer for the Nebraska Attorney
General's Office, did not immediately respond to a request for
Michelle Bennett, a Justice Department lawyer for the
federal defendants, was not immediately available for comment.
In May, the law firm Jones Day filed 12 suits in courts
across the country on behalf of 43 different Catholic entities,
including Notre Dame, Catholic University of America and the
Archdiocese of New York.
The Nebraska case is the first to be dismissed by a federal
judge, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
(Reporting by Terry Baynes in New York; Editing by Lisa