ACLJ Continues Litigation Efforts Against Abortion Pill Mandate
Litigation generally takes a long time before a case is finally resolved.
Despite the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision this past summer, ruling that the HHS Mandate (“the Mandate”) violates the religious exercise rights of for-profit businesses and their owners who oppose having to pay for abortion pill coverage, among other religiously objectionable things, in their employee health insurance plans, the many cases challenging the Mandate continue.
The American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) has filed eight such lawsuits on behalf of for-profit businesses and their owners.
One of the cases involves Cyril and Jane Korte, a husband and wife, and their family-owned construction company, Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, Inc., that has been serving the Central and Southern Illinois area for more than 50 years.
The Kortes seek to manage and operate their company pursuant to their Catholic faith, which prevents them from complying with the Mandate. If they follow their faith and do not comply, the federal government will impose annual fines of more than $700,000, which will destroy the company.
The ACLJ filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Kortes and their company in October 2012. After the trial court denied our motion for injunctive relief, we immediately appealed the decision to the United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and obtained an emergency injunction before the Mandate went into effect against our clients.
After the filing of briefs and oral argument on the merits of our claims, the Seventh Circuit ruled last Fall in a 2-to-1 decision in favor of our clients, stating that “[w]e hold that the plaintiffs—the business owners and their companies—may challenge the mandate. We further hold that compelling them to cover these services substantially burdens their religious-exercise rights.”
The Seventh Circuit also determined that the federal government did not show any significant interest that overrides the religious liberty rights of our clients; and, even if it had such an interest, the federal government did not show, as it is required to do, that it cannot achieve its interest in ways that are less damaging to religious-exercise rights.
As a result of the ruling, the Seventh Circuit sent the case back to the trial court with instructions to enter a preliminary injunction in favor of our clients, barring the enforcement of the Mandate against them pending the full resolution of their lawsuit.
The trial court entered the preliminary injunction earlier this year and then stayed the case pending the outcome of the Hobby Lobby decision.
With the stay lifted this month, we filed a motion for summary judgment with the trial court, seeking a permanent injunction against the application and enforcement of the Mandate against the Kortes and their company. We expect a ruling from the trial court in the coming months.
The ACLJ has been challenging the Mandate for more than three years.
Our efforts have encompassed submitting formal comments to HHS when the Mandate was being contemplated, filing eight federal lawsuits against the Mandate, including the first lawsuit filed on behalf of a for-profit business and its owner (e.g., here and here), filing more than 15 “friend-of-the-court” briefs in support of those who are also challenging the Mandate (e.g., here and here), and filing a certiorari petition with the United States Supreme Court for the Court to consider a central issue involved in the various Mandate cases, a petition the Supreme Court granted.
To date, we have been fortunate to have obtained injunctions against the application and enforcement of the Mandate for all of our clients.
We will continue to keep you informed about this and the other important cases in which we are involved against the HHS Mandate.