WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has agreed to pay $570,000 in attorneys fees after it lost a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court surrounding a Mennonite company that challenged what is known as the abortion pill mandate.
As previously reported, Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation, which has 950 employees at its Arkansas, Maryland, Utah, North Carolina and Pennsylvania locations, filed suit in December 2012 against the mandate, stating that it has never provided insurance coverage for medications that induce abortions, and doesn’t plan on doing so. It explained that terminating a life after conception violates its sincerely-held Mennonite beliefs, stating that it “is an intrinsic evil and a sin against God.”
In October 2012, the board of directors for Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation, which is owned by Norman Hahn and run by his wife and five sons, composed “The Hahn Family Statement on the Sanctity of Human Life.”
“[H]uman life begins at conception (at the point where an egg and sperm unite), and that it is a sacred gift from God, and only God has the right to terminate human life,” the statement outlined.
Its current health care plan specifically excludes “contraceptive prescription drugs” and “any drugs used to abort a pregnancy.”
In January 2013, U.S. District Judge Mitchell Goldberg ruled against the Hahn family, opining that its manufacturing company was not entitled to an exemption under Obamacare because for-profit businesses that are secular in nature cannot be considered religious entities.
“It would be entirely inconsistent to allow the Hahns to enjoy the benefits of incorporation, while simultaneously piercing the corporate veil for the limited purpose of challenging these regulations,” he wrote.
The case was then appealed to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, but in a 2 to 1 decision, Goldberg’s denial was upheld. Therefore, attorneys for Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation filed a petition with the nation’s highest court, asserting that the district court and appeals court were out of step with other circuits across the country. Attorney generals for eighteen states also filed briefs to urge the court to accept the appeal.
In June of last year, while also upholding the right of the popular craft chain Hobby Lobby to decline to pay for certain contraceptives that it considers to be abortifacients, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation. Although the case was not as high profile as Hobby Lobby, it was nonetheless considered a win for religious rights nationwide.
The matter was consequently remanded back to the lower court to rule accordingly, and in October, Goldberg granted Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation a permanent injunction. On Friday, a settlement was published by the court, noting that the Obama administration has agreed to pay $570,000 in attorneys fees and costs associated with the lawsuit.
“The government does a serious disservice to taxpayers when it pursues unjust laws that force many of them to defend their constitutionally protected freedoms, said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman in a statement. “While this case is finally over, many others remain. We hope the administration will stop defending its indefensible abortion-pill mandate and end its waste of taxpayer dollars on a fruitless quest to force people to give up their freedom to live and work according to their beliefs.”