When Cami Jo Tice-Harouff finally received a favorable decision in her lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), she could think no more fitting celebration than to offer prayers of thanksgiving with her husband.  

“We’ve given our ministry — the work of our hands — to the Lord and we were very grateful,” she said. “God’s intervention made it possible.” 

In December 2021, HHS removed fertility awareness-based methods (FABM) from its list of Affordable Care Act-covered family planning methods, a move they made quietly and without the legally required process. As the Pulse of Catholic Medicine previously reported, Tice-Harouff filed a lawsuit through her attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) challenging this HHS decision.  

This victory was almost exactly a year in the making.  

Immediately after the decision was handed down, Tice-Harouff was nervous about the possibility of an appeal, but as it began to sink in that the victory was going to stand unchallenged, she let her patients know the good news. One patient, a woman with daughters who were also receiving counseling on these methods, “gave me a big ol’ hug — she almost knocked me off of my feet,” she recounted. “It gave me a lot of joy that just overflowed.” 

If this patient and her daughters were going to have to pay out of pocket, they would have incurred thousands of dollars of medical bills, or most likely would have had to stop seeking care altogether. This victory ensured that they did not have to make that decision.  

“Women should not have to fear losing their health coverage or doctor just because of back-door government decisions,” summarized ADF Senior Counsel Julie Marie Blake concerning the suit.  

Tice-Harouff cares for patients of all ages who would suffer irreparably. She saw the direct impact that this change of coverage would have on her patients and decided that even though she had a busy practice and it was a difficult thing to do, it was worth pursuing a lawsuit to protect them. For Tice-Harouff, it came down to her conscience.  

In July 2022, a hearing was held to determine if enforcement should halt while the lawsuit was ongoing. The federal court issued an order in August to halt enforcement because it agreed that it would “cause irreparable harm to her patients” and that “defendants likely violated the law in eliminating cost-free coverage for FABM counseling,” the U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Kernodle for the Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division, wrote in his opinion in Tice-Harouff v. Johnson. It was her first victory and temporarily safe-guarded her patients. 

Screengrab: YouTube

Her final victory was handed down by the court on December 6, 2022. According to Blake, the findings in the case reveal the carelessness of the deletion of those coverages by HHS, reflected by the extraordinary statement regarding their defense: “Defendants’ position is that the deletion of the sentence discussing FABM in the 2021 Guidelines did not and does not remove coverage for FABM.” Blake reported that this argument was found by the court to be “specious” or having a false look of truth. 

For those doctors considering a lawsuit concerning government overreach in the future, Tice-Harouff encourages them with this advice: Think through what the larger cost is, remember the respect and dignity your patients deserve as children of God, and remember you are not alone. That last part was something she was reminded of by the support of Catholic Medical Association-USA (CMA) and others who closely followed her case.  

“I’ve been very blessed to hear from members of CMA saying thank you, we’re praying for you,” she said, adding that as they went through the process, she definitely felt all of those prayers. “The spiritual battle can really be so much easier to fight when you do it with the support of people who are with you.”  

She has been grateful to the CMA and others who are a powerful witness of the support that Catholic doctors have for each other across the nation. She especially appreciates that they keep informed on cases like hers so that she and her fellow health care providers can participate in prayer, advocacy, and support. “Sometimes I forget that I’m one among many, and I thank CMA for reminding us that we’re not alone.” 

It brought her peace of mind knowing that this decision grants security to her patients. Her attorney confirmed that as things stand right now, there is no action that the federal government is looking to take that will withhold this coverage, so women will be able to rely on it for the foreseeable future. Blake added that HHS did not meet the technical requirements for the removal of this coverage, so “if they were to attempt it again, they would have to follow procedure and we would see it coming” with enough time to launch an immediate response.