Dating back to 2012 under President Barack Obama, the Department of Health and Human Services has tried to mandate health plan coverage of sterilization and contraceptives, including some drugs that can cause abortion. The Catholic Benefits Association objected to this, as well as to a counseling mandate, on the grounds it would require the association and its employer members to violate their religious beliefs.
The Catholic Benefits Association was among the plaintiffs who challenged the regulation under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which bars substantial burdens upon religious freedom.
The health coverage mandates "had attempted to force CBA members to violate Catholic moral teaching by covering contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization procedures in employee health plans," the association said. "Failure to comply with these morally objectionable mandates carried crushing fines which, in the case of CBA's membership, were estimated to be as much as $19 billion."
The association has more than 1,000 Catholic employer members including hospitals, colleges, religious orders, privately-owned Catholic businesses, 60 local Churches, and about 4,000 parishes. These employers have over 88,000 employees combined.
It filed lawsuits in 2013 and 2014 on behalf of its membership. The association was the largest plaintiff in the challenge, with more religious employers than the 100 other similar lawsuits combined.
In March U.S. District Court Judge David Russell agreed with the association's case and issued a permanent injunction to prevent the federal government from enforcing the mandate upon it. Russell also ruled that this mandate had violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by attempting to force employers to provide contraception and sterilization against their sincerely held religious beliefs.