Court Asked Not to Dismiss Lawsuit Against HHS Mandate
by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 4/24/12 12:13 PM
Yesterday, a pro-life legal firm filed in District Court of the District of Columbia paperwork rejecting an effort by the Obama Administration to dismiss one of the lawsuits filed against it over the controversial HHS mandate.
The Obama Administration filed to dismiss the Belmont Abbey College case attempting to avoid key legal questions in the HHS mandate. In its motion to dismiss, the Obama administration argued that a series of “promises” and “accommodations” will take care of any legal issues in the future with regard to the mandate that requires almost all employers provide and pay for abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization—regardless of moral or religious objections to such services.
“The Obama Administration is taking the remarkable position that they can’t be held legally responsible for the actions it has taken regarding the Patient’s Protection and Affordable Care Act, suggesting they are still changing the rules,” said Hannah Smith, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
“Our clients’ First Amendment rights are being trampled on and we are requesting that the court consider the law as it is, not how the Administration promises it to be,” Smith told LifeNews.
The motion reads in part: “the law is clear that a mere delay in enforcement is not grounds for prohibiting judicial review. And promises of future rulemaking cannot thwart federal court jurisdiction to review a rule that is already final and binding, particularly where—as here—the possible future rules being contemplated would not resolve the underlying conflict. For these reasons, and as set forth more fully below, the Court should reject Defendants’ standing and ripeness arguments and deny their motion to dismiss.”
The Obama administration currently faces several lawsuits over the mandate, including two filed by the Alliance Defense Fund.
In February, ADF Senior Counsel Gregory Baylor joined Geneva College President Ken Smith Tuesday at a press conference to announce a new federal lawsuit against the Obama administration over what ADF and the college call its “unconstitutional mandate that religious employers provide abortifacients, sterilization, and contraception to employees regardless of religious or moral objections.”
“People of faith shouldn’t be punished by the state for following that faith in making decisions for themselves or their organizations,” said Baylor. “Every American should know that a government with the power to do this to anyone can do this–and worse–to everyone.”
ADF attorneys have also filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Louisiana College. The new lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Louisiana College v. Sebelius, argues that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as well as the First and Fifth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Mike Johnson, dean of Louisiana College’s Pressler School of Law, said, “The Obama administration has purposely transformed a non-existent problem–access to contraception–into a constitutional crisis. This mandate offers no choice; Americans either comply and abandon their convictions or resist and be punished.”
Meanwhile, more than a dozen state attorneys general have signed onto a joint letter Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning started coordinating against the controversial Obama mandate requiring religious employers to cover birth control and drugs that can cause abortions
Bruning has contacted each of his colleagues in 49 states and has already been joined by a dozen, including South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Together, the three lawmakers have co-signed a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebilius, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis over the Obama mandate.
Also, the largest Catholic pro-life group and Catholic television station have filed suit against the new Obama mandate that forces religious employers like them to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs in employee health insurance. The EWTN Global Catholic Network filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Alabama against the Department of Health & Human Services, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and other government agencies seeking to stop the imposition of the anti-conscience mandate as well as asking the court for a declaratory judgment that the mandate is unconstitutional.
Priests for Life, a New York based international pro-life organization of Catholic clergy and laity, filed a lawsuit against the Obama Administration in an effort to seek injunctive relief from impending regulations that would require the organization to pay for employee health insurance that covers abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization.
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.