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Wheaton (Illinois) Contraception Lawsuit Dismissed

August 28, 2012

A U.S. district court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit over the mandate that health insurance plans cover contraception from Wheaton College, the evangelical college in Illinois, saying the suit was premature. In its original lawsuit, Wheaton said it was exempt from the administration's one-year "safe harbor" before insurance would have to begin covering all forms of contraception at no cost for female employees, because it had covered some forms of birth control -- including emergency contraception -- on Feb. 10, the cutoff date for the safe harbor.

Since that filing, the Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance that would make Wheaton eligible for the safe harbor, because the college was attempting to end contraception coverage when the safe harbor deadline expired. The Washington, D.C., district court found that Wheaton did not have standing to sue the administration and that the suit was premature because enforcement does not begin until Aug. 1, 2013.

The suit is the third to be dismissed in recent weeks. Belmont Abbey College, a Roman Catholic college in North Carolina, lost a similar court challenge in D.C. in July, as did a suit from several states and Catholic employers (but no colleges) in Nebraska.

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Libby A. Nelson

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