Stay Granted in Challenge to HHS Mandate

In a brief filed last week in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeal, the Life Legal Defense Foundation raised new grounds for overturning the HHS contraceptive mandate. The mandate requires all insurance plans to include no-cost contraceptives and abortifacients as covered services.

Frank O’Brien and his Missouri-based company O’Brien Industrial Holdings, Inc., had appealed from the dismissal of their case challenging the mandate.  Today the Eighth Circuit granted his motion for a stay of enforcement of the mandate while that appeal is pending.

LLDF congratulates O’Brien’s attorneys, Frank Manion and Ed White of the American Center for Law and Justice and Pat Gillen of Fidelis Center for Law and Policy.

Throughout the United States, employers with religious convictions that prohibit them from providing contraceptives—particularly those that cause abortion—are bringing lawsuits to challenge the mandate. These plaintiffs argue that the Mandate violates their right to religious freedom, protected both by the First Amendment and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. LLDF, in conjunction with the Bioethics Defense Fund, are representing Women Speak for Themselves, in friend-of-the-court briefs filed in a number of these cases for the purpose of showing that the government’s purported interest (promoting women’s health) is not actually achieved through increased accessibility of contraception.

Specifically, the government ignored substantial evidence that hormonal contraceptives pose serious health risks to women. The briefs point to the health hazards listed for this type of drug, which include higher risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular complications; greater susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections; and higher risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer, and liver tumors. These risks have been documented in peer-reviewed studies, and recognized by other agencies of the federal government as well as by international health organizations.

By ignoring these risks, the Government has also run afoul of the Administrative Procedures Act, LLDF argued in its latest brief, filed in O’Brien v. Dept. of Health and Human Services. HHS Secretary (and Planned Parenthood ally) Kathleen Sebelius completely disregarded the health risks to women from contraceptives and abortifacients, instead focusing on the supposed socio-economic benefits to women in avoiding childbearing, a factor that should never have been considered in drawing up regulations under the Women’s Health Amendment.

“Increasing access to drugs intended to disrupt the normal functioning of healthy women’s bodies neither protects women’s health nor promotes gender equity. On the contrary, the mandated drugs increase the risk of disease while treating the natural condition of women as something that needs to be fixed,” states Catherine Short, LLDF’s Legal Director. “No employer, religious or not, should be forced to participate in such a destructive, Planned Parenthood-inspired scheme.”