Wheaton College joins suits against contraception mandate

Wheaton College has filed a lawsuit against President Obama’s administration, joining more than 50 religious institutions in their opposition to a mandate that would force the school to provide health insurance for students and staff that would cover contraception.

The evangelical college filed the federal lawsuit Wednesday in Washington D.C., less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to uphold the preventive services mandate. The school says the mandate violates their “deeply held religious beliefs,” by providing access to emergency contraception and birth control measures.

The mandate, which is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, requires health insurance plans to cover preventive services for women including all FDA-approved forms of contraception.

The group representing Wheaton College, the Becket Fund, takes specific aim at the mandate’s inclusion of coverage for emergency contraception drugs, commonly known as morning after pills, such as the Plan B and Ella.

According to the Becket Fund, Wheaton joins 57 groups that have filed a combined 23 lawsuits against the Obama administration in their fight against the preventive services mandate.

The majority of the groups in protest are Catholic churches and institutions such as hospitals, and Wheaton College, which is evangelical, says the suit alongside The Catholic University of America’s lawsuit is the first of its kind. The Catholic University of America filed its suit in May.

Wheaton College President Philip Ryken said the school filed for an exemption from the mandate, but was denied. Under the law, a religious organization’s main purpose must be religious beliefs and it must primarily employ and serve those who share its faith to be eligible for exemption.

The mandate, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, is set to go into effect on Aug. 1, but religious institutions who are not eligible for exemption have a year to “adapt” to the rule.

“Our hope is a full exemption will eventually be provided for Wheaton College and other religious institutions,” Ryken said.

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