Judge: Wheaton College must offer emergency contraceptive coverage

Earlier this month, Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit denied the school's request for a preliminary injunction.

Wheaton College must offer emergency contraceptive coverage according to a recent ruling despite the private nondenominational Christian institution’s religious objections.

According to Courthouse News Service, on July 1, Judge Richard Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit denied the college’s request for a preliminary injunction, which would have given the college a temporary religious exemption until the case is decided. Wheaton College currently qualifies for an Obamacare “accommodation,” but argues that compliance with the required procedures will make the institution “morally complicit in the wrongful destruction of human life.”

The Seventh Circuit ruled that Wheaton College’s religious rights are not violated by requiring reporting to insurers that the college’s health plans will not cover certain contraceptives.

"When Wheaton College tells us that it is being 'forced' to allow 'use' of its health plans to cover emergency contraceptives, it is wrong. It's being 'forced' only to notify its insurers...that it will not use its health plans to cover emergency contraception, that it is out of the loop, that the insurers will have to deal directly with the students, faculty, and staff, bypassing the college health plans, which remain in force, so far as contraceptive coverage is concerned, only for the contraceptives that the college does not disapprove of on religious grounds," wrote Judge Posner in the ruling.

Wheaton College requires all students and employees to sign a “Community Covenant” that includes a requirement for them to “uphold the God-given worth of human beings, from conception to death.” According to the opinion, the college objects to providing “emergency contraceptives” that it considers abortifacient, but does not object to “traditional contraceptives.”

Posner argued in the ruling that Wheaton College is not automatically exempt from Obamacare requirements, unlike other religious organizations.

"But Wheaton College does not claim to be a church, or explain how without some notification to the government, or to its insurers, an organization that is not, like a church, automatically exempt becomes known to the government as having religious views that clash with, and entitle it to opt out of, the federal law," states the opinion.

Posner stated that the college’s attorney provided no evidence that the Covenant has ever been violated by community members and therefore “Wheaton College need have no fear that any of them will ever use the forbidden contraceptives.”

“If the implicit prohibition of emergency contraception is totally effective—and Wheaton College has presented no evidence, or even alleged, that it is not—the terms of its contracts with its insurers are indeed academic. It’s as if the Affordable Care Act had entitled sterile women to emergency contraceptives,” said Posner.

Wheaton College President Philip Ryken said in an emailed statement he was “disappointed by the court’s denial of our request for preliminary relief, but we remain hopeful for a time when the government will allow us to provide healthcare for our employees and their families in full accordance with our common faith.”

“We will continue to pursue the freedom to practice our beliefs—even as the government seeks to change the terms of our healthcare plans against our will,” said Ryken.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @mvbarillas