Friday, October 5, 2012

The ACA and Contraception

A federal judge has dismissed a company's claim that the 2010 health care reform violates religious freedom.

     At issue is the reform's mandate that requires employers to cover prescription birth control at no cost to enrollees in all private health insurance policies, beginning in 2013. O'Brien Industrial Holdings and its owner Frank O'Brien, filed a lawsuit in March. The complaint was one of dozens filed around the country claiming the mandate violated employer's freedom of religion.

     But U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson ruled the mandate does not impose a "substantial burden" on the plaintiffs. Jackson's ruling is believed to be the first such ruling in the country, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

     "Plaintiffs allege that the preventive services coverage regulations impose a similar ultimatum, and therefore substantially burden their free exercise of religion 'by coercing plaintiffs to choose between conducting their business in accordance with their religious beliefs or paying substantial penalties to the government. Am. Compl. ¶ 40 [Doc. #19]," Jackson wrote. "However, the challenged regulations do not demand that plaintiffs alter their behavior in a manner that will directly and inevitably prevent plaintiffs from acting in accordance with their religious beliefs. Frank O'Brien is not prevented from keeping the Sabbath, from providing a religious upbringing for his children, or from participating in a religious ritual such as communion. Instead, plaintiffs remain free to exercise their religion, by not using contraceptives and by discouraging employees from using contraceptives. The burden of which plaintiffs complain is that funds, which plaintiffs will contribute to a group health plan, might, after a series of independent decisions by health care providers and patients covered by OIH's plan, subsidize someone else's participation in an activity that is condemned by plaintiffs' religion. This Court rejects the proposition that requiring indirect financial support of a practice, from which plaintiff himself abstains according to his religious principles, constitutes a substantial burden on plaintiff's religious exercise."


In principle, I don't support public funding of elecetive drugs and medical procedures like contraceptives or Viagra; although I am open to arguments that such coverage could mitigate the numbers of the poor having children that they cannot provide for. I would want to see some analysis before judging the efficacy on those grounds.

But I do see merit in the ruling above. The justice system has long ruled that laws of general applicability are not usually trumped by protestations of religious liberties. In this case, though chruches themselves are incorrectly proffered as the targets of the alleged discrimination, the ACA contraceptive mandate applies only to religiously affiliated organizations who both employ and serve the general public.....meaning those of the same, similar, different and no faiths.

I believe the grounds for pushing back against this portion of the law, if not the ACA writ large, are rooted in economic and fiscal liberty...not in regards to relgious liberty, as cited above.

But the recent crusade against Obama, for offenses both real and imagined, include the charge that he is somehow "biblically hostile", as cited in the infinitely forwarded list from faux-historian David Barton. The problem lies in reading through the list, it is striking how many items are nowhere in the purview of any sitting POTUS, and the rest generally speak to cases where Christianity is not being afforded the level of preferential treatment that adherents would desire.

But back to the ruling above. Is this case any different than someone who is religously pacifist, paying taxes that support overseas military operations?

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