After Republican attorneys general in seven states tried to block the Obamacare provision requiring contraceptive coverage in employer-provided insurance plans, a federal judge struck down their lawsuit in July. But that won’t convince the Republican officials to give up the fight. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) announced yesterday that he is seeking to appeal the U.S. District Court’s decision.
In a statement announcing his decision to appeal, Schuette alleges that Obamacare’s contraceptive provision violates Catholics’ constitutional right to religious liberty by forcing them to pay for contraception against their beliefs:
Religious liberty is America’s first freedom. Any rule, regulation or law that forces faith-based institutions to provide services that violate their free exercise of religion is a flat-out violation of the First Amendment. I will continue to uphold my duty and protect the constitutional rights of the citizens of Michigan.
However, Scheutte’s argument about “religious liberty” falls flat. In fact, the birth control regulation already includes an exemption for places of worship, as well as a widely supported workaround that allows Catholic-affiliated institutions — such as hospitals, charities, and universities — to refer employees to an outside insurer for contraception coverage if they object to covering the service directly. In his defense of the health reform law’s birth control provision, President Obama has reiterated his commitment to religious freedom while pointing out that “it’s not fair” for Catholic institutions to deny their employees birth control when there is already a compromise in place that prevents Catholic organizations from directly paying for contraception that they oppose.
The seven Republican officials — in addition to Schuette, the lawsuit was filed by the attorneys general in Florida, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas — do not represent the only legal challenge to the health reform law. Dozens of Catholic institutions also filed a joint lawsuit against the Obamacare contraception provision at the beginning of the summer, despite the fact that many of them already included contraceptive services in their insurance plans before the Obamacare provision took effect on August 1.