Seven States Challenge Contraceptive Mandate
Special Report - February 27, 2012
Last week, the attorneys general of seven states joined several Catholic organizations and two private individuals in filing a lawsuit against the federal government over a federal mandate that requires public and private health insurance plans, including those offered by religious hospitals, universities, and charities, to cover “all FDA-approved” contraceptives. The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in the District of Nebraska on February 23, was announced by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, who is joined in the lawsuit by the attorneys general of Oklahoma, Florida, South Carolina, Texas, Michigan, and Ohio. Nebraska’s Catholic Social Services, the Catholic Mutual Relief Society of America, Pius X Catholic High School, and two Catholic women are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
“This regulation forces millions of Americans to choose between following religious convictions and complying with federal law,” said Nebraska Attorney General Bruning in a press release. “This violation of the First Amendment is a threat to every American, regardless of religious faith. We will not stand idly by while our constitutionally-guaranteed liberties are discarded by an administration that has sworn to uphold them.”
According to the press release, the lawsuit contends that “the rule regulating employers under the 2010 health care reform law announced last month infringes upon the constitutional right of religious liberty by requiring religious-affiliated organizations such as hospitals, schools and other community outreach programs to purchase employee health insurance that covers services contrary to their belief systems.” The lawsuit describes the contraceptive mandate as “an unprecedented invasion of the Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights to free speech, free exercise of religion, and free association.” In his press release announcing the lawsuit, Attorney General Bruning acknowledged the proposed accommodation announced earlier this month by the Obama administration that would “shift the requirement from the employers to health insurers themselves,” but he noted that it “did nothing to address the fundamental First Amendment violation and was never officially made.” The lawsuit asks the district court to declare the contraceptive mandate unconstitutional and to enjoin the federal government from enforcing the rule against the plaintiff states, organizations, and individuals.
This lawsuit is the latest in a number of lawsuits across the nation that have been filed against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) over the contraceptive mandate, including lawsuits brought by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty on behalf of Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, Colorado Christian University, Eternal World Television Network (EWTN), and, most recently, Ave Maria University.
Additionally, on February 20, 2,500 religious leaders signed a letter addressed to President Obama opposing the mandate. The letter argues that the mandate “essentially ignores the conscience rights of many Catholic and Protestant Americans.” It states that despite a “narrow” religious exemption for churches, “the vast majority of religious organizations will be required to choose either to violate their consciences or drop their health coverage for employees.” The letter continues, “This mandate is all the more egregious for including drugs and devices that are known and scientifically shown to function in ways that can cause abortions, including varieties of the morning-after-pill, both before and after implantation. The conscience rights of those who object to such drugs, let alone object to being forced to cover such drugs, is clearly violated by the Administration action.”
Insurance "Accommodation" Unsatisfactory - February 15, 2012
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