The Christian Employers Alliance has won a major victory against the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate in relation to providing abortion-inducing drugs.
In an exclusive interview with The Western Journal, CEA president Jim Mischel said the May ruling by North Dakota chief federal district court Judge Daniel Hovland, which the Trump administration did not appeal by the deadline last month, establishes the right of alliance members not to provide abortifacients in their health care plans.
Mischel recounted that following the highly publicized Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision in 2014 in favor of the Christian-owned company, the Obama administration sought to limit its impact by establishing an “accommodation” rule concerning the ACA’s contraception mandate.
It was “really just a work-around around the Hobby Lobby decision,” Mischel said.
The Hobby Lobby company provided coverage for most FDA-approved birth control methods, but had religious objections to providing abortifacients.
The Department of Health and Human Services accommodation called for health insurers and not employers to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, if the business owners had sincerely held religious beliefs against providing them.
“I would say [the Obama administration] practically ignored the Hobby Lobby decision and came up with a new set of guidelines that in all purposes forced the same Christian employers to cover the abortifacient drugs that the Supreme Court said they did not have to cover,” Mischel said.
He pointed out that Hovland’s ruling in favor of the CEA provides one of the few ways Christian employers can actually be protected from providing abortion-inducing drugs and devices.
Mischel said the alliance (which he described as the first of its kind in the country) is made up of Christian business owners who collectively employ tens of thousands of people nationwide. (Liftable Media, Inc., The Western Journal’s parent company, is a CEA member).
“So it is a huge victory on behalf of Christian employers and religious freedom and really companies that want to provide high-quality health care that reflects [their] ethical values,” Mischel said.
“We want health care that reflects our principles of promoting human life, not destroying human life,” he added. “To us, that’s one of the reasons you want health care is to promote human life.”
Under current regulations, the Affordable Care Act contraception mandate imposes a tax of $100 per day for each employee whose health care coverage does not include abortifacients or $36,500 per beneficiary per year.
In his decision, Hovland placed a permanent nationwide injunction against the federal government fining CEA members, including current members and those who join in the future.
Like the Supreme Court in Hobby Lobby, the judge relied on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
RFRA, which is grounded in the First Amendment, prohibits the government from “substantially burden[ing]” a person’s free exercise of religion, unless it can show the action in question serves a “compelling government interest,” and the government has implemented the “least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest.”
Hovland directed that any penalties, fines or assessments that had accumulated against CEA members be voided and eliminated.
Mischel said the ruling “supports the Hobby Lobby decision that religious freedom still exists in our country, will still be protected, and everyone has the right to choose the health care that supports their values.”
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