Pa. Dioceses Defeat Obamacare Abortion-Pill Mandate


Very big news out of Pittsburgh. Today federal district court Judge Arthur J. Schwab granted an injunction against the Obamacare abortion-pill and birth control mandate for the Dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie and their associated organizations. Read: Pittsburgh and Erie PI Decision.

The injunction is the first one that has been thoroughly litigated for a Catholic non-profit organization, and only the second one so litigated for a non-profit entity of any kind (Geneva College, also in Pennsylvania, won a similar injunction earlier this year).

dioPittlogoThe injunction protects Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the St. Martin Center, Inc. and Prince of Peace Center, Inc. of the Diocese of Erie (both affiliated with Catholic Charities), and Erie Catholic Preparatory School, from needing to acquire a health insurance plan that either provides or triggers the provision of abortifacients, contraception and sterilization.

eriebannerThis is a huge victory. Among other things it defeats the so-called “accommodation” that President Obama has attempted to thrust on non-profit religious groups. That alleged compromise draws a bright line between churches and other non-profit religious groups, and it forces those groups to trigger contraceptive insurance coverage by means of a shell game where they are supposed to pretend they aren’t involved. In some situations, involving self-insured plans, it explicitly forces the religious group to secure a third party to provide the exact coverage the religious group itself objects to covering (by “designating” their plan administrator to do it). As if you could hire someone else to commit a moral evil that you believe sinful.

The Obama administration’s proposal of this moral kabuki dance has even convinced some Obama-supporting Catholics to claim that the bishops should stop opposing Obamacare’s attack on religious freedom. The government’s “accommodation” is also entirely illegal and disconnected from any statutory authority to engage in its workaround.  Just like every other ad hoc “fix” that the White House has conjured up for problem after problem in Obamacare, it was hastily drafted to try to change poll numbers and appease Planned Parenthood instead of to respect freedom and the rule of law.

Today’s court decision also vindicates the U.S. Bishops’ uncompromising stance on the abortion-pill and birth control mandate, which they recently reaffirmed at their annual meeting, both for non-profit organizations and for lay Catholics and people of good will who are threatened by this government coercion just because they are trying to earn a living for their families in business. In 2012 those families started their lawsuits with victory after victory against Obamacare’s attack on religious freedom. With this victory by Pennsylvania Dioceses, and the earlier one by Geneva College, Obamacare’s attack on religious non-profit activity is starting out on the same losing foot.

America cherishes religious freedom for all people.  Its jurisprudence is now doing so against an increasingly massive and insistent federal government that desires to impose its own anti-life and anti-fertility image on every citizen and organization in the nation.

Kudos to the attorneys at Jones Day representing Catholic dioceses and associated entities in these and other cases.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of


About Author

Matt Bowman is a pro-life, religious liberties and constitutional law attorney in the Washington, DC area. He graduated from Ave Maria School of Law in 2003 and clerked for several federal judges thereafter. The Bowmans are involved in homeschooling and classical Catholic education and are rabid fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Matt is a member of the Knights of Columbus and his local parish.

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