Pro-Life Catholic Group Wins HHS Mandate Exemption in Court
by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 12/24/12 12:29 PM
In another victory for pro-life advocates challenging the pro-abortion HHS mandate in Obamacare, a pro-life Catholic group has won a legal battle in court to get an exemption from having to comply with the mandate.
The new mandate compels religious employers to pay for and refer employees for birth control, abortion-causing drugs and contraception in violation of employers’ religious beliefs.
On Thursday, pro-life attorneys Robert Muise and David Yerushalmi presented oral argument in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn) in support of Priests for Life’s request that the court immediately halt the enforcement of the Obama administration’s mandate. The next day, the federal government entered into a stipulation that it would not enforce the HHS “contraception” mandate against Priests for Life pending a revision in the rules that would protect religious liberty.
The agreement came as a result of the court strongly urging the government to enter into the stipulation. If an agreement was not reached by December 21, the court indicated it would schedule an emergency hearing December 26, and attorneys for the pro-life group said it would have ordered the exemption.
Pursuant to the terms of the binding stipulation, the government agreed that it “will not take any enforcement action against [Priests for Life], its group health plans, or the group health insurance coverage provided in connection with such plans, for not covering in the health plans any contraceptive services required to be covered” by the HHS mandate.
In August, Priests for Life indicated it would openly defy the mandate if it did not receive legal protection in court. At the time, Father Frank Pavone told LifeNews his pro-life group doesn’t qualify for the narrowly-drawn exemptions in the mandate, so his organization will not comply with it and will run the risk of fines and other possible punishment.
“The unjust and unconstitutional HHS mandate, against which Priests for Life and 57 other plaintiffs have sued the federal government, takes effect today. We at Priests for Life do not qualify for the year that the government has offered certain groups to “adapt” to the mandate. And we are not “religious” enough for this Administration,” he explained. “But regardless of all that, we do not adapt to injustice; we oppose it.”
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“Therefore today, on behalf of our organization and on behalf of myself personally, I announce our conscientious objection to this mandate,” he said. “Priests for Life has the highest respect for civil government and advocates the observance of all just laws. But this policy is unjust, and today I reaffirm our intention to disobey it.”