Apparently the State of Alabama, not suprisingly, is also unhappy with the infringment on the constitution it signed. This is excellent news because it underlines the point that, though contraception is a moral evil and this should be taught by the Church, so also is forcing someone to participate in something that is against their conscience. This is protected by the constitution, a document which ought to be valued by the states that signed it. Now the state is involved against the state. From EWTN this morning:
In papers filed March 22 in the U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Attorney General Luther Strange asserted that the controversial federal rule, which requires the inclusion of contraception services in virtually all private employee health-care plans, would pre-empt rights affirmed by the state’s Constitution, which guarantees its citizens’ right of conscience.
“[T]he state seeks to preserve its ability to provide insurance coverage to its citizens in a manner that is consistent with Alabama law and the right of conscience,” stated the document filed today.
Summarizing the basis for the state’s motion to join the lawsuit as a co-plaintiff, the attorney general also asserted that the regulation would result in conscientious objectors opting out of their private health plans, thus increasing participation in Medicaid and other state-supported health programs.
Court documents identify the Eternal Word Television Network, Inc., as the plaintiff, and Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Hilda Solis, secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Labor, Timothy Geithner, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of the Treasury as co-defendants.
“[T]he state seeks to minimize the number of uninsured Alabama citizens for whom the state bears the burden of providing health care,” stated the document, which charged that the “federal regulation at the heart of this lawsuit thwarts” that objective.
Michael Warsaw, president and CEO of EWTN, which is headquartered in Irondale, Ala., welcomed the action by the attorney general.
“We are grateful to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange for taking such a strong stand on this issue,” said Warsaw.
“This suit demonstrates that the Alabama motto — ‘We dare to defend our rights’ — is no mere slogan,” Warsaw noted. “The state could simply have chosen to file a brief advising the court of the impact of the case on its citizens. Instead, it is intervening in the suit as a co-plaintiff with EWTN. The attorney general of Alabama is saying, in effect, that this unjust, unconstitutional mandate hurts not only EWTN, but the entire community.”
On Feb. 9, EWTN filed its own legal challenge to the contraception mandate, which was approved on Jan. 20 by Secretary Sebelius. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a public interest group, is representing the network pro bono.
The Register is a service of EWTN.
The federal rule requiring co-pay-free “preventive services for women” arises from the new health bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare.
After Catholic leaders and commentators attacked the narrow religious exemption included in the mandate, the president offered an “accommodation” for conscientious objectors, proposing that the costs of providing the co-pay-free provisions would be passed on to insurance companies or other independent entities.
The U.S. bishops have rejected the accommodation, noting that the federal rule still required church-affiliated institutions to secure services that violate their moral teachings.
On Feb. 23, seven other states jointly filed legal challenges against the federal contraception mandate. Alabama chose to take a separate path, joining EWTN’s legal challenge.
As noted in the state’s motion to intervene, Alabama law does not require that insurers provide contraception or sterilization coverage in health plans. Nor does state law require every employer or person in the state to purchase such coverage. The documents filed by the attorney general clarify that Alabama citizens are free to choose between an array of health-insurance plans, including those that exclude these services.
The contraception mandate would overturn the status quo, removing the choice of morally acceptable health plans for those who object to some or all of the co-pay-free provisions. Unless the mandate is repealed, every plan offered in the state-run health-insurance exchange will include abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and surgical sterilization.
In the papers filed by the state, Attorney General Strange addressed the coercive nature of the contraception mandate and underscored his statutory responsibility “to ensure that charitable institutions adhere to their purposes and bylaws and to advise state officers on how to conduct programs consistent with state and federal law.
“Because the federal mandate at issue in this lawsuit threatens to interfere with the mission of religious not-for-profits and because the result of this lawsuit will as a practical matter control the administration of a state program, the attorney general has an interest in this litigation stemming from the prerogatives of his office,” the document stated.
EWTN’s Warsaw says this last point is particularly important: “When the federal government uses its power to coerce a faith-based organization to act contrary to its deeply held values, it destroys that organization’s capacity to fulfill its mission.
“Ultimately, as is the case with the HHS mandate, if that organization is unwilling to compromise its beliefs, it is an organization that can’t follow its beliefs or fulfill its mission; its integrity as an organization is destroyed by fines and crushing government penalties; it ceases to exist. People have fought and died for the right to conscience protection.”
Warsaw applauded the 12 states — Alabama included — that have challenged the contraception mandate to date, and he expressed the hope that more states would follow.
“In joining EWTN’s lawsuit, Attorney General Strange shows that he understands this is unacceptable,” Warsaw said. “I am very grateful that he has chosen to use the state’s power to intervene for the common good.”
Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear three days of oral arguments addressing both broad and narrow challenges to the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The contraception mandate will not be at the center of that review, but its future depends on whether the high court rules in favor of the Obama administration — or against it.
Advocates and opponents for the bill are expected to converge at the Supreme Court on March 25, with rallies and prayer vigils planned to mark the groundbreaking case.
During a March 21 interview with the Register, Archbishop-designate William Lori of Baltimore, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, acknowledged that he would be carefully following the oral arguments, which often signal individual justices’ particular questions or areas of agreement.
“Obviously, it could have some effect on what we’re doing and what we’re interested in,” he said, while noting that the conference had long advocated for universal health insurance.
“But, all along, we argued that the health-care reform bill should have adequate conscience protection,” he said. “It got passed without it. And we didn’t go looking for this [battle], but we have it, and we’re going to pursue all the remedies available to us as citizens — in all three branches of government.”
Joan Frawley Desmond is the Register’s senior editor. Link.
Of course Alabama is one of the most conservative states in the nation…if I had to predict one to get onboard…it would have been Alabama or Texas. Hopefully more states will join.