Pro-life firms take fight against US abortion mandate to courts

(Photo: Facebook)Employees pose for the grand opening of a Hobby Lobby store in Florida. The arts and crafts chain is one of many for-profit businesses fighting in court to avoid having to implement a U.S. government mandate requiring employee insurance coverage for abortion inducing contraceptives.

Motivated by religious reasons, for-profit organizations are fighting and winning court battles against a provision in the new U.S. federal health care law which mandates coverage for abortion-inducing drugs.

The U.S. government's position under the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, is that for-profits must provide coverage to their employees for contraceptive drugs that cause chemical abortions, even if the business owners hold religious beliefs opposed to their use.

If the organizations do not provide the coverage, they face huge fines.

Over 19 of the 31 businesses who have sued the government have received injunctive relief in court.

This means they don't have to comply with the mandate while their cases proceed in court, according to the the non-profit, public-interest litigation group The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

In one of the more high-profile cases, the administration of ended an appeal against the injunction favoring Tyndale House, the world's largest Christian publisher, and asked for the case to be dismissed.

The case will move forward with the injunction still in place, the Baptist Press has reported.

Judge Reggie B. Walton issued the injunction in favor of Tyndale in November.

He wrote in his opinion, "The contraceptive coverage places the plaintiff in the untenable position of choosing either to violate their religious beliefs by providing coverage of the contraceptives at issue or to subject their business to the continual risk of the imposition of enormous penalties for its non-compliance."

Lawyers believe Walton said Tyndale would likely win appeals.

The legal group defending Tyndale believes the government's call for a dismissal is a good sign.

Matt Bowman, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom (AFD), said in BP, "The government dismissed its appeal because it knows how ridiculous it sounds that a Bible publisher isn't religious enough to qualify as a religious employer.

"For the government to say that a Bible publisher isn't religious is outrageous, and now the Obama administration has had to retreat in court."

In well-known case, May 23, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a rare "en banc" hearing to Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain operated by a Christian family, the Greens.

They say that the Obamacare abortion mandate violates their beliefs.

Originally a federal judge ruled that Hobby Lobby had to abide by the mandate and a three-judge panel from the 10th Circuit upheld his verdict. However, in the "en banc" hearing, all eight judges were present.

The Becket Fund is defending Hobby Lobby, which has 500 stores in 41 states.

Charisma News reported that attorney Kyle Duncan said after the hearing, "We are encouraged by today's hearing before the full 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Being heard before all eight judges - rather than the typical three-judge panel -signifies the importance of the case and the arguments being made."

Duncan said, "We stand firm in our belief that Hobby Lobby should have the right to opt out of a provision that infringes on their religious beliefs, and we look forward to a favorable outcome."

BP notes that Hobby Lobby has made Christianity a central part of its business. The chain plays Christian music in its stores and is closed on Sundays.

In addition, Hobby Lobby publishes full-page newspaper advertisements with Gospel messages at Christmas and Easter.

The Becket Fund is also representing about a third of the 30 non-profit organizations which are also suing the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department, which administers Obamacare, over the mandate.

These cases include lawsuits by religious organizations such as hospitals, charities, religious colleges, and Catholic dioceses.

Currently no decisions have been made on the merits of these cases.

Some religious organizations are shielded from the abortion mandate until August 1, according to Life News, a pro-life media outlet.

Because of the trend favoring pro-life organizations, the Supreme Court is expected to eventually end up deciding on the legality of the Obamacare abortion mandate, according to observers.

In the meantime, two writers for the pro-life Americans United For Life Action are calling for legislative protection for conscientious objectors.

William Saunders and Mary Novick wrote in Life News this week that people should urge Congress to pass the Health Care Rights of Conscience Act, which offers protection against violations of conscience related to the mandate.

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