A federal judge disagreed with a pro-life group that is concerned it will be forced to pay for abortion-causing drugs under the HHS Mandate in Obamacare.
The pro-life group Real Alternatives, based in Pennsylvania, filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration concerning the mandate and its compelling portions that require religious groups to pay for drugs that may cause abortions. The HHS Mandate has been a hotly-contested section of Obamacare with Hobby Lobby leading the battle against it in the most high-profile of the dozens of lawsuits filed against the mandate.
Real Alternatives, which provides abortion alternatives in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, field suit to protect itself and its employees form the mandate. But Judge John E. Jones III of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania sided with the Obama administration and dismissed their case despite their claim that their religious freedoms were violated.
Real Alternatives had excluded contraceptive care from its health insurance plan since 2008, and was able to continue doing so until 2014 because its plan was “grandfathered” against requirements of the ACA. But the insurer eventually opted to discontinue the plan, and after 2014 Real Alternatives was unable to buy coverage that didn’t include contraceptives.
One of the goals of the the Real Alternatives suit was to obtain a court order to allow it to obtain coverage that doesn’t include contraceptives.
One of the Real Alternatives arguments dismissed by Jones was that the government has no legitimate purpose in mandating people to have benefits they don’t want or won’t use.
Jones wrote, “Time and again, courts have found a government interest to be compelling even when it does not achieve a benefit for each and every member of the population. Not every person who pays into social security receives or desires its benefits. Not every person who pays taxes receives unemployment benefits, welfare, or a myriad of other services offered by the government through citizens’ tax money.”
Jones also addressed what he called an “issue of great sensitivity” — that an employee’s health plan covers a whole family, and there might be disagreement within the family over contraception.
Kevin Bagatta, the director of Real Alternatives, told LifeNews.com he is “very disappointed with this ruling.”
“Real Alternatives, a secular, nonreligious, nonprofit company, administers programs on behalf of three states to operate pregnancy and parenting support services programs to assist women to choose childbirth instead of feeling they have to have an abortion. Real Alternatives believes the science is undeniable that abortion ends the life of a human person and as a matter of conscience is wrong,” he said.
Bagatta continued: “The government is forcing Real Alternatives to purchase insurance coverage that covers devices that can cause an abortion. This government requirement forces Real Alternatives to violate its stated mission and its underlying purpose for its existence.”
The decision comes even as the Supreme Court has been siding with a number of religious groups suing the HHS mandate.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court issued an order preventing the Obama administration from forcing a Catholic group in Michigan to obey the HHS mandate that requires them to pay for abortion-causing drugs for their employees. That was the sixth time the Supreme Court has rebuked the Obama administration and prevented it from making such a mandate.
“The government keeps making the same bad arguments and the Supreme Court keeps rejecting them – every single time. This is because the government can obviously come up with ways to distribute contraceptives without the forced involvement of Catholic ministries,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “As with the Supreme Court’s decisions in Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby, this is a strong signal that the Supreme Court will ultimately reject the government’s narrow view of religious liberty. And it makes it less likely that lower courts will accept arguments the Supreme Court has rejected over and over and over again.”
As the Becket Fund noted, the Michigan Catholic Conference and other Catholic ministries brought their request to the Supreme Court after a surprising lower court decision that would have allowed large IRS fines against the ministries because they, based on their religious beliefs, cannot provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plans. The federal government has relied heavily on that decision in courts around the country, arguing that it should be able to impose similar burdens on religious ministries like the Little Sisters of the Poor.
A December 2013 Rasmussen Reports poll shows Americans disagree with forcing companies like Hobby Lobby to obey the mandate.
“Half of voters now oppose a government requirement that employers provide health insurance with free contraceptives for their female employees,” Rasmussen reports.
The poll found: “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 38% of Likely U.S. Voters still believe businesses should be required by law to provide health insurance that covers all government-approved contraceptives for women without co-payments or other charges to the patient.
Fifty-one percent (51%) disagree and say employers should not be required to provide health insurance with this type of coverage. Eleven percent (11%) are not sure.”
Another recent poll found 59 percent of Americans disagree with the mandate.