Judge: Moral AND Religious Exemptions Can Be Made For Contraception Mandate

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Sep 02, 2015 12:40 PM
Judge: Moral AND Religious Exemptions Can Be Made For Contraception Mandate

A decision in the March for Life v. Burwell  lawsuit has paved way for more litigation and debate over the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, with a federal judge ruling that moral objections are legitimate reasons to exempt an organization from the birth control mandate.

The New York Times  reported that March for Life, an organization that began in 1973 after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the country, filed a lawsuit against the Department for Health and Human Services over their contraception mandate for equal protection violations. The Times added that the group feels they’re being treated differently than other “similarly situated employers” by the government:

Judge Richard J. Leon of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia rejected the government’s position. “This not only oversimplifies the issue — it misses the point entirely,” Judge Leon wrote.

“The characteristic that warrants protection — an employment relationship based in part on a shared objection to abortifacients — is altogether separate from theism. Stated differently, what H.H.S. claims to be protecting is religious beliefs, when it actually is protecting a moral philosophy about the sanctity of life.”

“H.H.S. may be correct that this objection is common among religiously affiliated employers,” he added. “Where H.H.S. has erred, however, is in assuming that this trait is unique to such organizations. It is not.”

Giving religious groups special treatment, Judge Leon wrote, amounts to “regulatory favoritism.” Moral philosophy, he said, should be accorded the same treatment as religious belief.

Of course, an appeal is going to be filed by the government. Last summer, Hobby Lobby won a limited victory in their lawsuit against the HHS mandate. The Supreme Court ruled that their objection was valid, but since Hobby Lobby is a closely-held, for-profit business, it only applies to similar entities. March for Life is a secular, non-profit organization. At the same time, the business already covered 16 of the 20 types of contraception outlined in the HHS mandate. The only four they objected to are the ones the business owners considered abortifacients.

For the other side, Ian Millhiser of the left-leaning Think Progress wrote that this is the “wackiest anti-birth control court decision to date.”

Friendly Reminder: At the time of the Hobby Lobby decision, Guy aptly noted that contraception isn’t illegal, it’s widely accessible, and vast majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents are fine with it.