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Obama Admin Wants Lawsuit Dismissed Against HHS Mandate

by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 2/17/12 4:42 PM

National

The Obama administration has asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the Obama administration over its mandate to force religious employers to  pay for coverage for birth control and drugs that can cause abortions.

This was its first opportunity to explain to the court and the country why the mandate is not illegal and unconstitutional. The Obama administration did not defend the constitutionality of the mandate, but said the lawsuit should be thrown out because the administration plans to revise the mandate to make it on insurance companies to pay for coverage rather than employers, who will still have to make referrals.

“Plaintiff’s challenge to the preventive services coverage regulations is not fit for judicial review because defendants [Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius] have indicated that they will propose and finalize changes to the regulations that are intended to accommodate plaintiff’s religious objections to providing contraception coverage,” the Department of Justice (DOJ) wrote in its brief to the Washington, D.C. District Court.

Obama officials claim the mandate does not put forth any “immediate injury” to religious groups.

Luke Goodrich, Deputy General Counsel of the Becket Fund, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic university, says he thinks the Obama administrations argument will not stand up in court.

“It doesn’t argue that the mandate is legal; it doesn’t argue that the mandate is constitutional,” Goodrich said. “Instead, it begs the court to ignore the lawsuit because the government plans to change the mandate at some unspecified date in the future.”

“Apparently, the administration has decided that the mandate, as written and finalized, is constitutionally indefensible,” said Hannah Smith, senior counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty “Its only hope is to ask the court to look the other way based on an empty promise to possibly change the rules in the future.”

The administration’s legal filing relies on an announcement by President Obama at a February 10 press conference, in which he stated that the rules may be changed in the future. But that announcement is not legally binding and does nothing to change the law on the books, which is already harming religious organizations like Belmont Abbey College, Smith explains.

“Promises, promises. The Administration is taking the remarkable position that announcing future plans at a press conference means the courts should ignore what the law on the books actually says,” added Smith. “Since when does ‘Trust me, I’m from the government’ suspend the laws of the land?”

Obama’s February 10 “accommodation” is coming under increasing fire on numerous fronts. A diverse coalition of over 300 scholars and religious leaders have called the maneuver “unacceptable,” because it still forces many religious organizations to violate their core religious beliefs. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has also denounced it.

In today’s Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer points out that the supposed “solution”—forcing insurance companies to provide contraception for free—is an unprecedented “assault on free enterprise,” because it would allow the government, without any statutory authority, to force private companies to hand out goods and services for free.

“Religious organizations are rightly skeptical that the government will fix the flagrant violation of religious liberty by commandeering the insurance industry,” said Smith. “If this is the best the administration can do to defend its mandate, it won’t last long.”

The panel that put together the mandate has been condemned for only having pro-abortion members even though polling shows Americans are opposed to the mandate.

More than 50 members of Congress banded together at a press conference to demand legislation to stop the new mandate pro-abortion President Barack Obama put in place forcing religious employers to pay for insurance coverage including birth control and abortion-inducing drugs.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry held a press conference with supporters of the bipartisan, bicameral Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. His legislation would protect the religious liberty and conscience rights of every American who objects to being forced by the strong-arm of government to pay for drugs and procedures recently mandated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Fortenberry bill currently has the support of approximately 220 Members of Congress and Senators, the most strongly-supported legislative remedy to the controversial HHS mandate.  This measure would repeal the controversial mandate, amending the 2010 health care law to preserve conscience rights for religious institutions, health care providers, and small businesses who pay for health care coverage.

H.R. 1179 enjoys the endorsements of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Right to Life Committee, Americans United for Life, and other organizations.  Numerous other organizations, including the Christian Medical Association and Family Research Council, have urged support of the bill.

Sen. Roy Blunt, a pro-life Missouri Republican, is putting forward the Blunt Amendment, #1520, again, and it is termed the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. According to information provided to LifeNews from pro-life sources on Capitol Hill, the Blunt Amendment will be the first amendment voted on when the Senate returns to the transportation bill. The amendment would allow employers to decline coverage of services in conflict with religious beliefs.

Republicans are moving swiftly with legislation, amendments, and potential hearings on the mandatethe Obama administration has put in place that forces religious employers to pay for birth control and abortion-inducing drugs for their employees.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops  issued a statement saying Obama’s revised mandate involves “needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions” and it urged Congress to overturn the rule and promised a potential lawsuit.

Meanwhile, the Republican presidential candidates had been taking verbal swings at Obama for imposing the original mandate on religious employers, which is not popular in the latest public opinion poll and which even some Democrats oppose.

Congressman Steve Scalise has led a bipartisan letter with 154 co-signers calling on the Obama Administration to reverse its mandate forcing religious organizations to include drugs that can cause abortion and birth control in the health care plans of their employees.

The original mandate was so egregious that even the normally reliably liberal and pro-abortion USA Today condemned it in an editorial titled, “Contraception mandate violates religious freedom.”

The administration initially approved a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine suggesting that it force insurance companies to pay for birth control and drugs that can cause abortions under the Obamacare government-run health care program.

The IOM recommendation, opposed by pro-life groups, called for the Obama administration to require insurance programs to include birth control — such as the morning after pill or the ella drug that causes an abortion days after conception — in the section of drugs and services insurance plans must cover under “preventative care.” The companies will likely pass the added costs on to consumers, requiring them to pay for birth control and, in some instances, drug-induced abortions of unborn children in their earliest days.

The HHS accepted the IOM guidelines that “require new health insurance plans to cover women’s preventive services” and those services include “FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling” — which include birth control drugs like Plan B and ella that can cause abortions. The Health and Human Services Department commissioned the report from the Institute, which advises the federal government and shut out pro-life groups in meetings leading up to the recommendations.