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Health Care Reform: Seventh Circuit Rejects Notre Dame’s Request for Injunction Against ACA Contraception Mandate While Supreme Court Challenges Are Pending

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February 2014

A three-judge panel on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the University of Notre Dame’s request for a preliminary injunction that would permit the university to avoid complying with the ACA‘s contraception mandate while the legal validity of the mandate is pending review by the United States Supreme Court. Guidance issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on the mandate states that employers who object to the mandate on religious grounds may contract with third-party insurers to provide contraceptive services, rather than providing the services directly. The university, a Catholic institution, is claiming that complying with the mandate, even indirectly by contracting with a third-party insurer, violates its religious beliefs.

By a 2-1 margin, the panel affirmed the district court’s denial of a preliminary injunction. The panel ruled that it did not have the power to prevent the university’s third-party health insurer from offering contraceptive services because the insurer was not part of the lawsuit. The panel, however, made clear that it was only ruling on the requested injunction, and was not weighing in on the broader question of the mandate’s legal validity.

As summarized in our November 2013 alert, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments on a consolidated case brought by two for-profit businesses challenging the validity of the contraception mandate on religious grounds. In addition, the Supreme Court has granted a temporary injunction enjoining enforcement of the mandate against a non-profit religious entity while the case is being decided on the merits by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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