Supreme Court to Hear Main Lawsuit Challenging Obamacare

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 14, 2011   |   11:30AM   |   Washington, DC

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the main lawsuit seeking to challenge the Obamacare law that pro-life groups opposed because it allowed taxpayer funding of abortions, failed to protect conscience rights and sparks rationing concerns.

The high court will take the case Florida and more than two dozens other states filed against the health care reform law, saying that its individual mandate — requiring people to purchase health insurance that could fund abortions with taxpayer dollars or premiums — is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in late March and issue a decision in the case by July, when the 2012 presidential election is in full swing.

The case comes from appeal by the Obama administration of a federal appeals court ruling striking down Obamacare.

In January, a federal judge in Florida issued a ruling in what is the largest lawsuit filed against the Obamacare health care law. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson said the individual mandate is unconstitutional and, therefore, the entire law is as well.

The Obama administration appealed the decision to the U.S. Appeals Court based in Atlanta, Georgia. Judge Vinson did not stop the implementation of the law pending the appeal which could take two years to reach the Supreme Court and result in a decision. At the appeals court level, the court ruled Obamacare’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, calling it “an unprecedented exercise of congressional power.”

“The appeals court got it right and the decision represents a critical step forward in undoing ObamaCare,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ, which is involved in litigation challenging ObamaCare. “The individual mandate, which forces Americans to purchase health insurance, exceeds the authority of the Commerce Clause. We’re delighted that the appeals court recognized that fact. While the appeals court did not declare the entire law unconstitutional, by striking the individual mandate, the entire law is clearly in jeopardy. We remain hopeful that the Supreme Court will ultimately declare the entire health care law unconstitutional.”

Th high court unleashed the next battle in the lawsuit today.

“The petition for a writ of certiorari in No. 11-393 is granted,” the Supreme Court wrote today in its legal papers announcing the taking or declining new cases. “The petition for a writ of certiorari in No. 11-400 is granted limited to the issue of severability presented by Question 3 of the petition. The cases are consolidated and a total of 90 minutes is allotted for oral argument.”

“The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted. In addition to Question 1 presented by the petition, the parties are directed to brief and argue the following question: “Whether the suit brought by respondents to challenge the minimum coverage provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is barred by the Anti-Injunction Act, 26 U.S.C. §7421(a).” A total of two hours is allotted for oral argument on Question 1. One hour is allotted for oral argument on the additional question,” it said.

In his initial decision, Judge Vinson ruled:  “Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void. This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications. At a time when there is virtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country, it is hard to invalidate and strike down a statute titled ‘The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.’”

“Regardless of how laudable its attempts may have been to accomplish these goals in passing the act, Congress must operate within the bounds established by the Constitution,” the judge wrote. “This case is not about whether the Act is wise or unwise legislation. It is about the Constitutional role of the federal government.”

“Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the Act with individual mandate,” he added.

The eventual republican nominee will very likely make Obamacare and the opposition to it from a majority of Americans, a central theme of the presidential election campaign, Leading pro-life groups will undoubtedly press hard to show how Obama’s failure to ensure Obamacare does not fund abortions is part of a massive pro-abortion record he’s built up that has seen him work hand-in-hand with pro-abortion groups to advance abortion and abortion funding both in the United States and abroad.

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.

Last 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 veto the 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.