PITTSBURGH Groups affiliated with the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie were granted a permanent injunction Friday against the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate, after government lawyers conceded they had no new evidence to offer in defense of the rule.

The concession prompted U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab to change his temporary injunction to a permanent one, which could push the argument into an appeals court.

Attorney Paul "Mickey" Pohl, representing the Catholic organizations, filed a motion Friday seeking the permanent injunction. U.S. Department of Justice attorneys then filed a notice confirming that the judge has already found in the Catholic groups' favor and that they did not oppose ending the case.

"In doing so, defendants in no way suggest that they agree with plaintiffs' characterization of the issues raised in these cases," the federal attorneys wrote. "Defendants respectfully reserve all arguments stated in their oppositions to plaintiffs' motions . . . for the purposes of appeal."

Schwab closed the case. An appeal would go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

The diocese-related charitable organizations sued federal agencies and officials because they do not want their insurance administrators to be required to provide what they call "preventive services" coverage.

The injunction allows them to continue to offer insurance that doesn't include contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. Without the injunction, the insurance administrators for the organizations - though not the dioceses themselves - would have had to start providing the coverage Jan. 1.

Failure to provide the coverage could have resulted in fines that the diocesan organizations claimed would total millions of dollars a year.

The judge wrote last month in his 65-page opinion granting the temporary injunction that he was ruling on whether "the government will be permitted to sever the Catholic Church into two parts (i.e., worship and faith, and 'good works') - in other words, whether the government will be successful in restricting the right to the free exercise of religion as set forth in the First Amendment to a right to worship only."