Judge sides with company on contraceptive coverage

WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Friday temporarily prevented the Obama administration from forcing a Christian publishing company to provide its employees with certain contraceptives under the new health care law.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton granted a preliminary injunction sought by Tyndale House Publishers, which doesn’t want to provide employees with contraceptives that it equates with abortion.

At issue are contraceptives such as Plan B and IUDs. If a woman already is pregnant, the Plan B pill has no effect. It prevents ovulation or fertilization of an egg, and according to the medical definition, pregnancy doesn’t begin until a fertilized egg implants itself into the wall of the uterus. The Plan B pill may also be able to prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus. IUDs mainly work by blocking sperm but may also have the same uterus effect. To Tyndale, these methods are not morally different than abortion.

Tyndale, based in Carol Stream, Ill., says it provides its 260 employees with coverage for some contraceptives. The company and its president and CEO, Mark D. Taylor, filed the lawsuit against the Health and Human Services Department last month.

“The contraceptive coverage mandate affirmatively compels the plaintiffs to violate their religious beliefs in order to comply with the law and avoid the sanctions that would be imposed for their noncompliance,” wrote Walton, an appointee of President George W. Bush. He said that if the company doesn’t comply with the mandate, it is subject to government fines and lawsuits.

Walton acknowledged that the government has broad, compelling interests in promoting public health and ensuring that women have equal access to health care, but he said the question “is whether the government has shown that the application of the contraceptive coverage mandate to the plaintiffs furthers those compelling interests,” underlying “to the plaintiffs” in the text. Nothing in Walton’s order applied to anyone other than Tyndale.

Walton said that the government hasn’t offered any proof that mandatory insurance for the specific types of contraceptives that Tyndale objects to furthers the government’s compelling interests.

Matthew S. Bowman, a lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom, which brought the suit on behalf of Tyndale, said in an email that Bible publishers “should be free to do business according to the book that they publish.”

He added: “The Obama administration is not entitled to disregard religious freedom.”

The Health and Human Service Department declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.

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Follow Fred Frommer on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ffrommer

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