The mandate forces businesses to carry insurance that covers contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs, such as Plan B and ella.
The issue likely will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, but so far, the opponents of the policy are winning. Of the 14 cases involving for-profits that have been decided, opponents have won injunctions in 11 cases. Injunctions were denied in three cases, according to a tally by the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom.
The case likely is headed to the nation's highest court because appeals courts -- the level directly below the Supreme Court -- have issued split rulings. The Seventh and Eighth Circuits have issued injunctions against the mandate, while the Sixth and 10th Circuits have upheld it. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the government in December, although that order did not involve an injunction but instead an order requiring the government to issue new rules for non-profits.
In the latest ruling, the Eighth Circuit unanimously ruled that Annex Medical, Inc., which is owned by a Catholic man, Stuart Lind, does not have to follow the mandate while the case proceeds.
"Lind was unable to secure a plan without the objectionable coverage, because the statute and regulations require all insurers to include such coverage in all group health plans," the court wrote.
The Eight Circuit panel said Lind is likely to succeed in the case. The ruling involved nominees of Presidents Reagan (Roger L. Wollman), George W. Bush (Steven M. Colloton) and George H.W. Bush (James B. Loken).
Lind is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom.
"Americans have the God-given freedom to live and do business according to their faith," said Alliance Defending Freedom senior legal counsel Matt Bowman. "Honoring God is not just important within the four walls of a church; it is important every day, in all areas of life, including in our work. Freedom is not the government's to give and take away when it pleases. The court did the right thing in issuing its order, and we are confident that this unconstitutional mandate's days are numbered."
Of the 44 lawsuits against the mandate, 15 involve for-profit businesses and 29 involve non-profits such as Christian hospitals, universities and charities. A court has yet to issue a ruling on the merits in any of the non-profit cases, and opponents have yet to win an injunction in them. That's mostly because courts have ruled the non-profits aren't yet impacted -- some had until August 2013 to comply -- meaning the cases weren't, in court terminology, "ripe" to consider. But if the Supreme Court rules against the mandate in the for-profit cases, it would impact the non-profits, too.
Covered under the mandate are emergency contraceptives such as Plan B and ella that can kill an embryo after fertilization and even after implantation. Pro-lifers consider that action a chemical abortion.
The mandate was announced by HHS in August 2011 as part of the health care law championed by President Obama. Although the Supreme Court upheld the health care law last June, the justices' ruling did not deal with the religious liberty issues surrounding the abortion/contraceptive mandate. That means the nation's highest court could yet strike down what has been for religious groups and some business owners the most controversial part of the law.
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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