A federal judge issued a ruling today on a Virginia lawsuit against the ObamaCare health care law that allows abortion funding and he said the program is unconstitutional in part.
The ruling makes the district court the first federal court in the nation to strike down a portion of the ObamaCare law and it goes against rulings other courts have issued striking down other lawsuits.
The key issue in the complaint the state of Virginia filed is that the individual mandate in the law, requiring Americans to purchase health insurance (which may very well fund abortions) is unconstitutional and a violation of the power Congress has to regulate interstate commerce.
Judge Henry Hudson issued a 42-page opinion writing that the individual mandate exceeds Congress’ authority, saying it is “neither within the letter nor the spirit of the Constitution.”
He said his survey of case law “yielded no reported decisions from any federal appellate courts extending the Commerce Clause or General Welfare Clause to encompass regulation of a person’s decision not to purchase a product, not withstanding its effect on interstate commerce or role in a global regulatory scheme.”
Judge Hudson declined the request for an injunction stopping ObamaCare from going into effect any further while the case continues because the mandate hasn’t taken effect yet. He noted the Supreme Court will become the final arbiter of the case.
Ken Cuccinelli, the pro-life Attorney General of Virginia, brought the case and issued a quick comment on the decision before having fully reviewed it.
“Today, a federal judge in Richmond ruled the individual mandate of the federal health care law unconstitutional,” he said. “In other words – we won.”
“This won’t be the final round, as this will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution,” Cuccinelli added. “I am still fully digesting the court’s ruling” he said, but called it “good news.”
Hudson did not invalidate the full law but the individual mandate, its most important portion, and “directly-dependent provisions which make specific reference” to it.
The Obama administration is expected to appeal the ruling to the Fourth Circuit, which hears cases from Virginia and four additional states.
During the hearing, District Judge Henry Hudson also acknowledged the district court legal battle is but a precursor to a larger fight at the Supreme Court.
“As you well know, this is only one brief stop on the way to the United States Supreme Court,” Hudson said.
The Virginia challenge, like the arguments presented in the other cases, says the federal government does not have the authority to require Americans to purchase health care and punish them for not doing so.
“The Supreme Court has never allowed inactivity to be regulated as commerce,” said Virginia Solicitor General E. Duncan Getchell. He called the Obama administration’s position “strained and extreme” saying “no one can opt out.”
Getchell told Hudson the legislation is “unprecedented, unlimited and unsupportable in any serious regime of delegated, enumerated powers.
The Obama administration argues the decision not to buy insurance is itself an active process that Congress can regulate.
But Judge Hudson appeared to question how those without insurance must pay and appeared to side with the argument states are making that it is a punitive fine, while the federal government says it is a tax that it is entitled to levy. This is of particular importance and concern to the states because Obama had said it would not function as a tax.
“Why did the members of Congress and the President deny to everyone in America it was a tax?” Hudson asked Obama’s lawyer. “They denied it’s a tax. The President did. Was he trying to deceive the people?”
Hudson, who issued today’s ruling, was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2002.
The two cases previously decided by district courts are headed to appeals with the Michigan case going to the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati and a Virginia case heading to the Fourth Circuit in Richmond.
Oral arguments in the most high-profile case in Florida, the lawsuit filed by 20 states, are slated for December 16.
Every major pro-life organization has released a legal analysis of the ObamaCare bill saying it lacks sufficient provisions to stop abortion funding. They have also had to work to stop the Obama administration from funding abortions in three states through the high risk health insurance pools.