Supreme Court to Pick Obamacare Lawsuits Next Month

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 26, 2011   |   4:05PM   |   Washington, DC

The Supreme Court will take its very first look at the lawsuits challenging Obamacare next month when members of the high court meet on November 10 to decide which, if any of the multiple cases it will consider.

The Obamacare law has come under strong opposition from pro-life groups because it fails to include provisions that would prevent taxpayer financing of abortions and because it prompts concerns about rationing health care for elderly and disabled people. Leading pro-life groups ranging from National Right to Life and Americans United for Life to the nation’s Catholic bishops and the Family Research Council all opposed the bill because of their pro-life concerns.

Today, the SCOTUSblog broke the news about the Supreme Court taking its first look at the various legal challenges to the law.

“Five of the six pending petitions (the sixth is not ready yet) were distributed to the Justices’ chambers on Wednesday, for consideration at that private session,” it reported. “Although a grant of review is not assured, that is highly likely, since all sides agree that the Court should take on the controversy, and the constitutionality of a key provision of the new law has been decided differently by federal appeals courts.”

The high court is expected to announce the results of its preliminary look at the lawsuits by November 14, although it will not be rendering a decision. The announcement will merely indicate which of the lawsuit the Supreme Court will take. With some federal judges upholding the law and some striking it down in full or in part, the decision by the top court on which cases or cases it will take could point to the direction the court may go when it hands down a decision next summer.

They are expected to consider the case filed by the 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business in a joint lawsuit. Of the six possible cases the Supreme Court may choose from, the only one not yet ready is the suit filed by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, which a lower court dismissed.

The focus of the decision will likely center on whether the individual mandate in the Obamacare law, which compels people to purchase health insurance, is constitutional. The results of its decision will undoubtedly affect the 2012 presidential election, which will center in party on the Obamacare law that a majority of Americans still strongly oppose.

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives approved legislation, the Protect Life Act, to stop abortion funding in Obamacare. Senate Democrats are not expected to approve the bill and, pro-abortion President Barack Obama is expected to vetothe measure if it reaches his desk.

Members voted 251-172 for the pro-life legislation, with 236 Republicans and 15 Democrats supporting the bill and 170 Democrats and two Republicans voting against it. (See how your member voted here).

H.R. 358, Protect Life Act, makes it clear that no funds authorized or appropriated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), including tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, may be used to pay for abortion or abortion coverage. It specifies that individual people or state or local governments must purchase a separate elective abortion rider or insurance coverage that includes elective abortion but only as long as that is done with private funds and not monies authorized by Obamacare.

Much of the debate surrounded whether or not the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal taxpayer funding of abortions only in discretionary spending related to the HHS department, applied to Obamacare. As the Associated Press confirmed in 2009, it does not.

“Currently a law called the Hyde amendment bars federal funding for abortion – except in cases of rape and incest or if the mother’s life would be endangered – and applies those restrictions to Medicaid,” AP writer Erica Werner reports. “Separate laws apply the restrictions to the federal employee health plan and military and other programs.”

“But the Democrats’ health overhaul bill would create a new stream of federal funding not covered by the restrictions,” AP confirms.

Other debate covered whether Obama’s executive order would de-fund abortions under the bill, which it does not.

The bill also specifies that insurance issuers may offer health plans that include elective abortion and may offer separate elective abortion riders, so long as they ensure PPACA funds are not used for premiums or administrative costs. The bill also clarifies that issuers who offer elective abortion coverage must also offer a qualified health benefits plan that is identical except that it does not cover elective abortion.

The pro-life measure also ensures that state laws “protecting conscience rights, restricting or prohibiting abortion or coverage or funding of abortion, or establishing procedural requirements on abortion” are not abrogated by Obamacare. It also makes it so any state or local governments receiving funding under Obamacare may not subject any health care entity to discrimination or require any health plan to subject any entity to discrimination on the basis that it refuses to undergo abortion training, refuses to require abortion training, refuses to perform or pay for abortions, or refuses to provide abortion referrals.