Lawsuits Against HHS Mandate Continue Despite Obamacare Ruling

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 3, 2012   |   12:57PM   |   Washington, DC

The Supreme Court may have ruled on Obamacare, but a pro-life law firm that is behind some of the many lawsuits that have been filed against the HHS mandate that requires religious groups to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs say those challenges continue.

Last Thursday, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision essentially upholding the Obamacare law that pro-life groups regard as the biggest expansion of abortion and abortion funding since Roe v. Wade. The law also drew strong opposition from the pro-life community not only over abortion but because the legislation also promotes rationing of medical care that could lead to involuntarily denying lifesaving treatment.

Under the enacted law, federal tax-based subsidies will begin in 2014 to subsidize millions of private insurance plans that will cover abortion-on-demand, including some plans (“multi-state plans”) that will be administered by the federal government. Under another provision of the law, the federal government could even order many plans that do not receive federal subsidies to cover abortion as a “preventive” service.  The law also created an array of other mechanisms and funding pipelines by which access to and subsidies for abortion can be expanded if President Obama wins a second term.

But the law was also problematic for pro-lifers because of the controversial HHS mandate — which The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty indicates are still a topic of legal challenges that will move forward. Although the Supreme Court rejected claims challenging the individual mandate, the pro-life legal group says it allowed religious-liberty lawsuits against the HHS Mandate to proceed.

“The court’s opinion did not decide the issues in our cases,” said Hannah Smith, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.  “We are challenging the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate on religious liberty grounds which are not part of today’s decision.  We will move forward seeking vindication of our client’s First Amendment rights.”

The Court’s decision leaves untouched the controversial HHS mandate, a regulation based on other provisions of the Affordable Care Act that the Court was not asked to review in this case, Smith said. The mandate compels employers to provide drugs and services in their employee health care plans regardless of religious objections to those services.  Employers who fail to comply face staggering financial penalties.

“The Becket Fund’s religious liberty lawsuits against the unconstitutional HHS mandate will continue,” said Smith. “Never in history has there been a mandate forcing individuals to violate their deeply held religious beliefs or pay a severe fine, a fine which could force many homeless shelters, charities, and religious institutions to shut their doors.”

The Life Legal Defense Foundation also said the religious liberty cases remain on tap.

“The good news is that none of the religious liberty issues related to anti-life provisions of the Act were decided in Thursday’s ruling,” it said. “Those issues are yet to be decided, the hope remains that the draconian anti-life provisions of Obamacare will be ruled unconstitutional.”

Eric Scheidler, co-director, Stand Up for Religious Freedom Coalition, said he hopes the protests against the mandate will continue.



“I would have loved for the Supreme Court to have put the HHS Mandate controversy to rest by overturning the entire Obamacare law today. But that would have been the easy way out,” he said. “The ruling means that the grassroots protests of the HHS Mandate will continue. The more than 200 local leaders raised up all across the country to hold Stand Up for Religious Freedom rallies this spring are ready to continue this fight.”

“We remain convinced that the HHS Mandate is unconstitutional, and that the Supreme Court will strike it down when the scores of lawsuits filed against it finally reach the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, we will continue to fight the HHS Mandate through massive public protest and seek the kind of electoral change that will restore freedom of religion in our nation,” he added.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty helped lead the charge against the HHS mandate, representing 4 separate clients: Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), and Ave Maria University. There are currently 23 lawsuits pending in 14 states and the District of Columbia against the HHS mandate.