Geneva College Gets Obamacare Injunction

     (CN) – A Christian college need not pay for the contraceptive needs of its students, as required by health care reform, a federal judge ruled.
     Geneva College, a Christian liberal arts college set in Beaver Falls, Pa., sued the Obama administration and demanded an injunction to the women’s preventive health care regulations of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.
     Seneca Hardwood Lumber Co., of Cranberry, Pa., and two of its owners, Wayne Hepler and Carrie Kolesar, joined the lawsuit in June 2012. Hepler also sued on behalf of his sawmill, WLH Enterprises.
     The plaintiffs said their sincerely held religious beliefs prohibit them from intentionally participating in, paying for, facilitating or otherwise supporting the use of abortifacient drugs, contraception, sterilization, and related education and counseling through their company’s health insurance plan.
     Months before the suit had been filed, however, President Barack Obama had promised that his administration would consider an accommodation whereby some insurance companies could provide the services directly to women who seek them, “with no role for religious employers who oppose contraception.”
     Though U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti granted the lumber-related plaintiffs an injunction in April, she found Geneva’s claims unripe based on the uncertainty of the administrative rules process and the government’s claim that the final rules implementing the mandate would never be enforced against entities like Geneva.
     Geneva moved for reconsideration, arguing that it had to negotiate the terms of its 2013-14 student health insurance plan, which begins on Aug. 1.
     The college claimed that “there is a significant probability that [it] will simply cease facilitating health insurance coverage for its students … given the moral and religious unacceptability of the ‘accommodation’ set forth in the [proposed rules].”
     After Conti agreed last month that these developments warranted reconsideration of the case, she awarded the college a preliminary injunction June 18, relying on the 1972 decision Wisconsin v. Yoder.
     “Geneva maintains that any objected to services provided under the accommodation proposed by defendants would not be ‘free’ in the sense that any costs for such services would be passed on to it through ‘premiums and/or administrative charges,'” Conti wrote. “If Geneva were forced to drop its student health insurance plan, it would equally frustrate Geneva’s religious desire to support the physical well-being of its students. Like in Yoder, Geneva will suffer a financial hardship if it were forced to drop its student health plan because lack of such a plan will burden its student recruitment efforts, leading to reduced enrollment.”
     The mandate does not protect an interest “of the highest order,” the ruling states.
     “The tens of millions of individuals who remain unaffected by the mandate’s requirements – including those institutions that have no objection to the accommodation – contradict any notion that the government’s interests are as compelling as defendants argue,” Conti wrote.
     Meanwhile, an injunction poses little harm to the government, the court found.
     “Because coverage must be obtained by Aug. 1, 2013 (before the proposed rules must be finalized), Geneva will be irreparably harmed if it is forced either to forgo providing student health insurance coverage or to violate its sincerely held religious beliefs by contracting for coverage that requires it to pay, albeit by indirect means, to include the objected to services in its student health care insurance,” Conti wrote. “Because the harm Geneva will suffer is a result of at least a statutory violation, denial of the requested relief will result in the loss of vital religious freedoms, which ‘for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.'”

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