Washington, D.C. — In what is being called a major victory for religious schools nationwide, two colleges have won a challenge against Obamacare’s abortion pill mandate after the government vowed that it would rewrite the requirement so that it would not to pertain to sectarian educational institutions.
Wheaton College, a Christian entity located not far from Chicago, Illinois, and Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic institution west of Charlotte, North Carolina, both previously had their lawsuits dismissed by lower courts earlier this year. However, upon appealing the matter to the D.C. Circuit, the court ruled in favor of the colleges based on concessions made by the Obama administration.
According to reports, during court proceedings, the Health and Human Services Department promised to the court that it would make an adjustment to the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare to exempt colleges like Wheaton and Belmont Abbey from the requirement.
“[T]he government promised ‘it would never enforce [the mandate] in its current form’ against Wheaton, Belmont Abbey or other similarly situated religious groups,” explained The Becket Fund, the legal organization that argued on behalf of the colleges. “Second, the government promised it would publish a proposed new rule ‘in the first quarter of 2013’ and would finalize it by next August.”
“The administration made both concessions under intense questioning by the appellate judges,” it further explained. “The court deemed the concessions a ‘binding commitment’ and has retained jurisdiction over the case to ensure the government follows through.”
The Becket Fund also outlined that the Obama administration has made statements in the past that it would alter the requirement, but to date, nothing concrete has become of the promise. Now, the Health and Human Services Department is legally bound to its agreement and must follow through with its vow under court supervision. It is required to report back to the D.C. circuit every 60 days beginning in February 2013 until it creates the adjusted rule.
“There will, the government said, be a different rule for entities like the appellants,” the panel wrote in its decision on Tuesday. “[W]e take that as a binding commitment. The government further represented that it would publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the new rule in the first quarter of 2013 and would issue a new final rule before August 2013. We take the government at its word and will hold it to it.”
As previously reported, since the implementation of Obamacare, dozens of lawsuits have been filed to challenges the law’s contraceptive mandate, which includes drugs that many consider to be abortifacients, as well as sterilization coverage. A number of the lawsuits came from Christian or religious colleges and universities.
This past July, two Christian colleges outlined that they would not give in to the abortion pill mandate in Obamacare, no matter what the federal government or courts declared.
“I guess President Obama will have to come down to Louisiana College with whatever means they want to stop us,” said President Joe Aguilard of the Pineville institution. “We are going to have, as we say in French, a tete-a-tete.”
Geneva College President Ken Smith near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania made similar remarks. The publication Human Events explained Smith’s resolve this way: “As the colonists, in what King George called ‘the Presbyterian Revolt,’ responded to their earthly king with chants of ‘No king but King Jesus,’ so too the president of this Presbyterian college, Ken Smith of Geneva, has said, ‘At Geneva College, we have only one Lord, and he does not live in Washington, D.C..’”
While the adjustment to the mandate will include educational institutions such as these, it is not clear whether the Obama administration will create an exemption for Christian-owned businesses. The courts have been split on the matter this year, with some granting a temporary restraining order against the requirement, and others ruling that businesses cannot be exempt from the contraceptive mandate because a business is considered a secular facility.