Criswell College Sues Over Health Care Law

Religious school suing over requirement to offer "abortion-inducing drugs and procedures"

By Randy McIlwain
|  Thursday, Nov 1, 2012  |  Updated 8:47 PM CDT
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Criswell College in Dallsa is the latest religious-based employer to sue the federal government over President Obama's health care plan and certain provisions regarding women's health care.

Randy McIlwain, NBC 5 News

Criswell College in Dallsa is the latest religious-based employer to sue the federal government over President Obama's health care plan and certain provisions regarding women's health care.

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A Dallas religious college has joined a growing number of conservative and religion-based employers suing the federal government over the provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

Criswell College is seeking an exemption to the requirement that it to share costs for Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods as part of its health care coverage.

"It would be like asking an atheist, requiring an atheist, to buy a Bible or a vegetarian to buy a hamburger," said Jerry Johnson, university president. "We feel like our religious liberty is being violated, and we're seeking relief."

Johnson said Criswell College is in the process of renegotiating its health care coverage. When looking at its budget requirements for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, suing now made sense, he said.

Johnson said the school's lawsuit does not challenge payments for traditional contraception methods such as birth control pills, only "abortion-inducing drugs and procedures" currently not covered in the college's health care plan.

"There's a day-after pill. There's a week-after pill. There's a full range of things in this mandate," he said.

Johnson said Criswell College would continue to provide coverage for traditional birth control pills when its new health care plan is negotiated.

"We have always had that," he said. "That will be included, but not abortion-inducing drugs."

Criswell College is represented by the Liberty Institute, which has filed many lawsuits on behalf of conservative and religious organizations.

Hiram Sasser, director of litigation, said Criswell's suit is only seeking for the mandate about abortion inducing drugs and procedures to be declared unconstitutional or that Criswell College be declared exempt from enforcement.

"The law requires, if they're going to provide exemptions for secular companies -- which they have provided lots of exemptions in the overall scheme -- then they have to provide those same exemptions for Criswell College," Sasser said.

Sasser said the timing of the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday afternoon, just days before the election, is not politically motivated.

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