It’s only a matter of time until the Supreme Court holds hearings on a lawsuit related to the Obamacare HHS mandate that compels religious groups and businesses to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs.
The mandate has been the subject of dozens of lawsuits and appeals and lower federal courts have already weighed in in many of the cases — with most of the plaintiffs winning their bids to halt the enforcement of the mandate against them.
Now, a report in The Hill says attorneys on both sides are expecting the Supreme Court to get involved.
Two federal appeals courts have come down with opposite rulings on an important question related to the policy: whether for-profit businesses and their owners have the right to challenge in court the requirement that businesses provide contraception as part of their insurance coverage.
“I think it’s likely the Supreme Court is going to end up deciding this thing, and the question is when,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has organized many of the 60-plus lawsuits challenging the contraception mandate.
The different rulings by the two federal appeals courts significantly increase the likelihood the mandate will end up with the Supreme Court — possibly with a ruling just two years after the justices ruled ObamaCare’s insurance mandate was constitutional.
Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, which supports the contraception mandate, said it’s “likely” the Supreme Court could hear oral arguments in its next term, depending on the timing of appeals.
“I would anticipate, when there’s this much activity … that the court will hear one of these,” Melling said.
Alliance Defending Freedom, the group representing Conestoga and the Hahns, has vowed to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. Matt Bowman, the alliance’s legal director, said the group will file its appeal as soon as possible.
“We are hopeful that the court will take this, because whether families can exercise religion in their daily lives is an extremely important issue, and it can’t be an issue that has a different answer based on what part of the country you live in,” Bowman said in an interview.
The mandate went into effect last year on August 1 and the very minimal religious protections were set to go into effect August 1, but they will be implemented and enforcement will take place starting on January 1.
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Earlier this month, a federal court granted Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction against the HHS abortion-drug mandate. The injunction prevents the Obama administration from enforcing the mandate against the Christian company, which does not want to be compelled to pay for birth control or drugs that may cause abortions.
“The tide has turned against the HHS mandate,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and lead attorney for Hobby Lobby. “This is a major victory for not only Hobby Lobby, but the religious liberty of all for-profit businesses.”
Duncan says there are now 63 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate. The Becket Fund led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate. The Becket Fund currently represents: Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, Ave Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.
The most recent polling data from December 2012 shows Americans support a religious exemption to the mandate.