Contraception Mandate Briefly Halted
Special Report - July 31, 2012
A private company will not be forced to comply with the controversial contraceptive mandate included in the new healthcare law until courts settle a lawsuit on the matter. Newland v. Sebelius was filed April 30 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) on behalf of Hercules Industries. Hercules Industries is owned and operated by a Catholic family. Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a mandate that nearly all health insurance plans include coverage for “all FDA-approved contraceptives,” including abortion-inducing drugs and sterilizations, with few religious exceptions. Hercules Industries’ employee health plan does not include coverage for contraception because its use represents a violation of Catholic teaching.
On Friday, July 27, Senior Judge John L. Kane of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado issued an injunction order in Newland v. Sebelius. The order halts enforcement of the requirement that Hercules Industries change its health plan to comply with the law or be fined until a decision on the merits of the case is made. Judge Kane’s injunction is the first court order issued against the controversial mandate, which has come under intense fire from a variety of religious groups since it was announced. The requirement is set to go into effect tomorrow, August 1. After that, nearly all employers (with limited exemptions for religious organizations that essentially include only houses of worship to the exclusion of hospitals, schools, charities, and outreach ministries) must amend their employee healthcare plans to include no-charge contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilizations.
ADF is representing the Newland family, which owns and operates Hercules Industries. They argue in a brief to the court that, “the mandate disregards religious conscience rights that are enshrined in federal statutory and constitutional law,” and violates the First Amendment “due to its massive inapplicability and its discrimination among religions.”
The injunction was granted, in part, because Hercules Industries “adequately established that they will suffer imminent irreparable harm absent injunctive relief.” Judge Kane concluded that the government’s “harm pales in comparison to the possible infringement upon Plaintiffs’ constitutional and statutory rights.” All in all, Judge Kane found that the government’s arguments “are countered, and indeed outweighed, by the public interest in the free exercise of religion. As the Tenth Circuit has noted, ‘there is a strong public interest in the free exercise of religion even where that interest may conflict with [another statutory scheme].’”
In several places, the order referenced “the government’s creation of numerous exceptions to the preventive care coverage mandate” as undermining its arguments. Specifically, Judge Kane referenced the government’s exemption of “over 190 million health plan participants and beneficiaries from the preventive care coverage mandate; this massive exemption completely undermines any compelling interest in applying the preventive care coverage mandate to Plaintiffs.”
Additionally, the court found that the government’s defense failed to demonstrate that requiring employers to provide free contraceptive coverage in healthcare plans is the “least restrictive means of furthering their compelling interest.” The order pointed to the fact that the government already provides free contraception to certain women as potential evidence that the government was not using “the least restrictive means” to advance its interests.
“Every American, including family business owners, should be free to live and do business according to their faith,” said ADF legal counsel Matt Bowman in a press release. “For the time being, Hercules Industries will be able to do just that. The cost of freedom for this family could be millions of dollars per year in fines that will cripple their business if the Obama administration ultimately has its way. This lawsuit seeks to ensure that Washington bureaucrats cannot force families to abandon their faith just to earn a living. Americans don’t want politicians and bureaucrats deciding what faith is, who the faithful are, and where and how that faith may be lived out.”
Belmont Mandate Lawsuit Dismissed - July 23, 2012
More Oppose Contraceptive Mandate - June 19, 2012
43 Catholic Groups Challenge Mandate - May 23, 2012
HHS Rule Requires Abortion Mandate - March 20, 2012
Majority Oppose Contraceptive Mandate - March 16, 2012
Seven States Challenge Contraceptive Mandate - February 27, 2012
Insurance "Accommodation" Unsatisfactory - February 15, 2012
Religious Leaders Oppose Mandate - January 31, 2012
Feds Keep Contraceptive Mandate - January 23, 2012
Evangelical College Joins Contraceptive Challenge - December 29, 2011
College Challenges Contraceptive Mandate - November 14, 2011
Administration Requires Free Contraception- August 4, 2011
Becket Fund Defends Belmont Abbey - October 12, 2009
Federal Agency Mandates Abortion Coverage - August 17, 2009
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