By Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – Nine U.S. Senators, two U.S. Representatives, the Oklahoma attorney general and 11 organizations have filed briefs backing a hobby-store chain’s challenge to the controversial federal mandate that requires businesses to finance abortafacients in health insurance plans.
The coverage mandate, announced last year by the Obama administration as an enforcement requirement under the Affordable Care Act, was assailed in a legal brief submitted to the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
The brief supporting Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby from members of Congress was signed by U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Daniel R. Coats of Indiana, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Charles Grassley of Iowa, James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Pat Roberts of Kansas, and Richard Shelby of Alabama. Also on the amicus brief filed Feb. 20 were U.S. Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia and Lamar Smith of Texas.
The Becket Fund, the Oklahoma City retailer’s counsel in the challenge to “ObamaCare,” celebrated the wave of support in a statement from its headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Kyle Duncan, the fund’s general counsel, said, “While any brief by sitting members of Congress is significant, this one comes from members who originally supported the federal civil rights law — the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 — which is at the heart of the mandate challenges. The brief leaves no doubt that Congress intended to protect the religious freedom of those like Hobby Lobby and its founder, David Green, against federal attempts to force them to insure abortion-inducing drugs.”
Hobby Lobby is owned by the Green family of Oklahoma City. Members of the Green family are Evangelical Christians who oppose abortion. Last fall, the family sued to prevent enforcement of mandates for “preventive services” – including abortion-causing drugs – in the health care law passed in 2010.
Wednesday, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, in his brief on behalf of the state of Oklahoma, argued, “Operation of the Green Family’s corporations in a manner consistent with the Green Family’s religious faith is no less worthy of respect and protection than is the religious faith practiced by church members through a church also organized as a corporation under Oklahoma General Corporation Act.”
Another brief came form a range of organizations representing physicians, nurses and other health care providers. That brief before the Circuit Court contended, “’[E]mergency contraception’ [such as the “morning after” and “week after” pill] has the potential to terminate the lives of unborn children. Being forced to pay for the termination of a human life is just as objectionable as being forced to participate in the termination of the human life.”
The health care organizations included American Physicians & Surgeons, the Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Christian Medical Association, Catholic Medical Association, National Catholic Bioethics Center, Physicians for Life and the association of Pro-Life Nurses.
Seven other briefs have been filed in support of Hobby Lobby’s position, including from a wide range of religious organizations, including the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, as well as the Texas Center for Defense of Life and the National Legal Foundation.
You may contact Patrick B. McGuigan at Patrick@capitolbeatok.com and follow us on Twitter: @capitolbeatok.