GOP Pressing on With Contraception Lawsuit
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Seven states trying to block part of the federal health care law that requires contraception coverage will continue with their lawsuit despite last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld most of the law, according to Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, who is leading the case.
The federal lawsuit is challenging a rule that requires contraception coverage in health care plans - including for employees of church-affiliated hospitals, schools and outreach programs. The suit argues that the rule violates the rights of employers that object to the use of contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.
The U.S. Department of Justice wants the suit dismissed, in part because the president is trying to work out a compromise, but Bruning and his fellow Republican attorneys general in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas aren’t backing down.
"This rule is a brazen violation of the First Amendment rights of millions of Americans," Bruning spokeswoman Shannon Kingery said. "We will continue to fight this attack on religious liberty."
Some legal experts said that even though the nation’s highest court largely upheld the law, the lawsuit is narrowing in on a separate issue and has a decent chance.
Adam Samaha, a constitutional law professor at New York University’s School of Law, said other recent Supreme Court rulings suggest the court has "some sympathies with religious organizations being burdened by government." He cited a unanimous decision earlier this year in which justices sided with a religious school in an employment discrimination lawsuit.
But he also noted that President Barack Obama’s administration, in response to the criticism from religious groups, delayed enforcement of the provision until next summer and has said it would shift the requirement from employers to health insurers. Samaha said that shift bolsters the administration’s position in the legal challenge.
"Everybody agrees that this is far from a frivolous suit," added Samaha’s colleague, NYU law professor Richard Epstein. "Intellectually, it’s a very powerful suit."
The lawsuit was filed by Bruning, who was running for U.S. Senate at the time, in U.S. District Court in Nebraska. Plaintiffs also include three Nebraska-based groups - Catholic Social Services, Pius X Catholic High School and the Catholic Mutual Relief Society of America - along with a nun and a female missionary.