A Catholic hospital network in the Midwest will only cover fertility treatments for employees in opposite-sex marriages, according to a report from Bloomberg Law.
Within the new policy, the Illinois-based OSF HealthCare has limited its characterization of fertility for coverage to "the inability for a married couple of opposite sex spouses to conceive," per documents obtained by Bloomberg Law.
Also, the updated coverage operates to assist "married opposite sex spouses" trying to have a child.
The OSF hospital chain reportedly employs more than 24,000 people at 15 hospitals and 132 other facilities.
"The employee benefits we provide are driven by the OSF Mission and are in full compliance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services as well as state and federal laws, including the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act," an OSF spokesperson said in a statement.
According to Axios, the company health plans that cover fertility treatments ostensibly follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's definition of infertility, recognizing women who are not able to get pregnant after at least one year of unprotected sex.
As Bloomberg Law notes, the OSF coverage policy could be in violation of federal discrimination laws.
Peter Romer-Friedman, an attorney at Gupta Wessler PLLC, says the policy is a "pretty clear violation" of federal workplace discrimination law.
Noel León, an attorney with Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP, said she had never heard of a policy "so explicit" in excluding same-sex couples, according to Bloomberg Law.
The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis owns and operates OSF HealthCare.
As such, it can be argued the Peoria, Illinois-based group has the right to conform employee coverage to its own religious standards, according to a lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal advocacy group.
"The government cannot force religious health care providers to violate their beliefs," senior counsel Matt Bowman said in a statement from the Order of St. Francis.
Bowman added: "Even if government officials disagree with the beliefs of a Catholic health care entity, the organization still has the freedom to provide insurance policies and health care services consistent with its convictions."
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