It challenged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate on grounds of religious freedom.
Issued under the Affordable Care Act, the mandate requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering early abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations and contraceptives to their employees, even if doing so violates their deeply-held religious convictions.
The regulation has drawn widespread criticism, as well as lawsuits from more than 200 plaintiffs. Faced with opposition from religious groups and individuals, the Obama administration issued a revision, exempting houses of worship and their affiliated organizations, but placing other religious non-profits under a separate “accommodation,” so that their insurers would directly provide the coverage.
Critics of the mandate have argued that the accommodation is insufficient, still requiring objecting groups to facilitate the coverage and possibly leading them to indirectly fund it.
In deciding the Pennsylvania case, the U.S. district judge ruled that the mandate would redefine “the Right to the Free Exercise of Religion as set forth in the First Amendment to a Right to Worship only,” a move which will “sever the Catholic Church into two parts,” - “worship and faith, and ‘good works.’”
He also commented that the government “has failed to offer any testimony or other evidence” showing that employees who do not receive contraception from religious employers “have, in fact, suffered in the past, or will in the future, any ‘negative health or other outcomes,’ without the enforcement of the contraceptive mandate.”