Wheaton College, a liberal arts college in Illinois, brought suit against the federal government alleging that the Affordable Care Act infringed on the college's religious rights by making it complicit in providing emergency-contraceptive coverage to its employees and students. Although not affiliated with any church, the college describes itself as "deeply committed to evangelical Protestantism."
The college's case made its way to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected its argument that its religious rights were violated by the ACA. First, the court acknowledged that the AC does require college health insurance plans to cover the 20 types of FDA-approved contraceptives. However, the ACA also allows a college to refuse to include in its health plans any drugs of which it disapproves on sincere religious grounds, so long as it notifies its health insurers of its unwillingness to provide coverage. Upon notification, the insurers are required to provide coverage directly to the students, faculty, and staff, bypassing the college and its health plans. As a result, the court rejected the college's argument that it was "forced" to allow use of its health plans to cover emergency contraceptives, finding that the college was only "forced" to notify its insurers that the college's health plan would not cover it. The court also rejected the college's argument that its First Amendment rights were violated by compelling its speech (i.e., providing the notice). In conclusion, the court denied the college's request for injunctive relief. Wheaton College v. Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services (7th Cir. July 1, 2015).
Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf