Catholic World News

Appeals court rules against Liberty University in HHS mandate case

July 16, 2013

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has ruled against Liberty University’s challenges to healthcare legislation enacted by Congress in 2010 and to the ensuing HHS mandate.

The Catholic Medical Association filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Liberty University, while the Catholic Health Association filed a brief on behalf of the federal government.

The evangelical Protestant university argued that the legislation’s mandate to large employers to provide health insurance was unconstitutional. The court ruled that “we find that the employer mandate is no monster; rather, it is simply another example of Congress’s longstanding authority to regulate employee compensation offered and paid for by employers in interstate commerce.”

Liberty University also argued that its religious beliefs forbid it from “play[ing] [any] part in abortions, including [any] part in facilitating, subsidizing, easing, funding, or supporting abortions since to do so is evil and morally repugnant complicity.” The court ruled that “plaintiffs present no plausible claim that the Act substantially burdens their free exercise of religion, by forcing them to facilitate or support abortion or otherwise. The Act specifically provides individuals the option to purchase a plan that covers no abortion services except those for cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the mother would be endangered.”

In a footnote, the court, citing federal law, stated that drugs and devices that kill a newly-conceived human being between the moment of fertilization and implantation in the mother’s womb are not abortifacients:

In their new briefs, Plaintiffs seek to challenge as abortifacients forms of FDA-approved contraception that may act after fertilization, including emergency contraceptive pills and intra-uterine devices. But the Government does not define such contraceptives as abortifacients or abortion. Well-established federal law defines “pregnancy” to “encompass the period of time from implantation until delivery.” The forms of contraception that Plaintiffs now challenge, as they themselves recognize, do not act after implantation, so they do not terminate a “pregnancy” as defined in this regulation.

The university vowed to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.


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  • Posted by: unum - Jul. 17, 2013 8:33 AM ET USA

    The Court has certainly overstepped in ruling that the Government definition of abortifacients should used to guide the the actions of people of faith. The Supreme Court will certainly rule that "legal is not necessarily moral", and that the First Amendment does not allow government to define actions of believers in a manner that conflicts with their beliefs. If it does not, then our Constitution no longer protects our God given rights.