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Judge Dismisses Wheaton College HHS Lawsuit

Government will not enforce mandate that Wheaton College provide contraceptive drugs under its insurance policies for one year.

United States District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle has dismissed requesting relief from the Health and Human Services mandate. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires the college to provide insurance coverage for contraception, or pay fines.

Wheaton College filed its suit in July, anticipating it would face fines for not complying with the mandate beginning January 1, 2013.

Under the Department of Health and Human Services "safe harbor" provision, the government waits one year before beginning to fine qualifying non-profits for refusing to cover contraception, according to the college's website.

According to the ruling, "Wheaton argues that it cannot offer health plans that cover emergency contraceptives, namely Plan B... and Ella... Consistent with its religious beliefs.

According to a statement on the college's website, "On August 15, Wheaton won important victory when, as a direct result of the College's emergency motion, the government re-wrote the 'temporary enforcement safe harbor' guidelines to give Wheaton an additional year before heavy fines begin to accrue.

"Because the government has now agreed not to enforce the mandate against Wheaton in 2013, and because the government has pledged to revise the mandate in 2013, federal district court judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ruled that Wheaton’s lawsuit was premature."

The ruling states that Wheaton College's arguments, "do not set its case apart from the mine run of situations in which an enterprise confronts ...projected application of regulatory or fiscal legislation."

Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for the college's representative, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said in a statement released by the college Monday “The government argued that Wheaton’s case should not proceed because it is premature—but the court is mistaken in accepting that argument... In dismissing this case, the court did not address the substantive merits—Wheaton’s argument that being forced to offer drugs that violate its religious beliefs is harmful to its religious freedom.”

Wheaton College President Dr. Philip Ryken said in the statement, “Today’s ruling is disappointing to Wheaton—and should be of concern to anyone who values religious freedom... We remain hopeful that the courts will eventually address our case on its merits.”

Readers responded to this story in . Here's what they had to say:

  • SHay said: "Why don't they offer it, but let the individual's own beliefs guide them? Prohibition is a mandate."
  • ag said: "A private institutuon should be free to make its own policy. If you don't like it than go somewhere else. It's that simple."
  • Lisa said: "Yes, let the individual person decide. Once again a man making decisions for women!"
  • Mister Heche said: "It is heartening to see so many new voices emerging to challenge the myth that the sexual revolution and contraception have been a good thing for society."
  • Andrew said: "Is Wheaton college SOLEY a "religious organization" or are they ALSO an educational institution? If the first, stop taking government funds (accounting for at least 50% of revenue. If the second, follow the regulations. I would think that once a religious organization crosses the line into the secular world (world is a bad word choice but I can't think of an alternate) they should do so with the understanding that they have to play by the secular world's rules."
  • Mom From Illinois said: "Birth control pills actually have other uses than for contraception. Women are prescribed pills for medical reasons ie controlling heavy menstrual periods, decreased risk for anemia, and controlling endometrisis growth and pain. Instead women could undergo risky surgery for all of these conditions which only would increase medical costs in the long run for the college. I certainly hope the college would not cover any other sexually related drug ie Viagra for men to keep the playing field level."
  • Gregg Slapak said: "Ahhhh, yes, 'For God and His Kingdom'!"

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RP August 29, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Wheaton doesn't get 50%, or even close to it, from the government. It also doesn't say women can't have access to birth control, just that they shouldn't have to cover abortive drugs. Gregg - do you really want to turn off half your customers by being flippant about what they consider primary in their lives?
Paul August 29, 2012 at 06:24 PM
How can anyone expect the government to accommodate every single religious cult in the country!?!?! Perhaps Wheaton College should focus on more important issues like fighting child abuse by priests and their professors being convicted of child pornography. But perhaps they're too holy for that?!?!?
RP August 29, 2012 at 07:54 PM
They aren't asking for the government to accomodate them. Just leave them alone. Freedom of Religion - you can read all about it in that pesky Constitution. How would WC fight child abuse by priests when they have neither children nor priests at their campus? Although the professor was fired, he has not yet been convicted. Innocent until proven guilty is also part of our legal system. Other than that, you are right on.


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