(CNSNews.com) -- On Thursday, the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) announced victory in a lawsuit against the U.S. government over the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “contraceptive mandate,” which requires health insurers to provide co-pay-free coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilizations.
After nearly seven years of lawsuits, EWTN, a Catholic news network whose broadcasts reach over 300 million households in more than 145 countries and territories, will no longer have to cover these services in its health plan.
The contraceptive mandate is a regulation that was ordered by the Obama administration’s HHS Department in 2011, to complement the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) that became law in 2010. The rule states that health insurers must provide no-cost-sharing coverage for FDA-approved contraceptives, which include abortion-inducing drugs and the IUD, and sterilizations – all blanketed under the term “women’s preventive health care.”
The Trump administration has expanded exemptions from the mandate in several areas to include, recently, non-profit groups and small businesses that morally or for religious reasons object to such “health care” coverage.
However, the regulation is still in place and forces most Americans who pay for health insurance, individually or through their employer, to subsidize other people’s contraception, abortifacients and sterilizations.
As Trump’s HHS Department states, “Under the existing regulatory requirements created by the previous administration, employers, unless they qualify for an exemption, must offer health insurance that covers all FDA-approved contraception, which includes medications and devices that may act as abortifacients as well sterilization procedures.”
“The rules leave in place contraceptive coverage guidelines where no religious or moral objection exists, and they do not change the Health Resources and Services Administration’s authority to decide whether to include contraceptives in the women’s preventative services guidelines for other entities,” the HHS added. It also noted that it only expected exemptions to impact “approximately 200 employers.”
For EWTN, which began its legal battle against the mandate during the Obama years, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled on Nov. 29 to “vacate” and remand the matter entirely.
EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw said the network’s win “has been a long time coming.”
“Almost seven years and two presidential administrations later, the government and the courts have now realized what EWTN has been saying all along, that the HHS mandate was an unconstitutional attempt to coerce us into violating our strongly held beliefs,” Warsaw said. “This is the right outcome for EWTN and for all those who value religious liberty in America.”
EWTN first sued in 2012, represented by attorneys from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, after Obama’s HHS introduced the contraceptive mandate.
The initial suit, according to a press release by EWTN, “sought an injunction against the imposition of the mandate as well as a declaratory judgment that it was unconstitutional.”
The lawsuit was dismissed, but EWTN filed another suit in 2013, joined by the state of Alabama. In June 2014, an Alabama district court ruled against EWTN, but the network appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
According to the Catholic News Agency, after a lengthy process, the government agreed “not to enforce the contraceptive mandate” against EWTN, and the network asked the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate the decision of the District Court, which it did on Thursday.
Becket Senior Counsel Lori Windham said EWTN had “fought long and hard” for its basic freedoms.
“This victory ensures that EWTN can continue to serve as a voice for religious liberty for many years to come,” Windham said.