Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning [official website], joined by attorneys general from six other states, filed a lawsuit Thursday [complaint, PDF] in the US District Court for the District of Nebraska [official website] challenging new health care mandates that require the provision of contraception for all employees, including those of religious institutions. The new mandates were promulgated as a result of the recent Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [text; JURIST backgrounder] that was signed [JURIST report] in March 2010. The parties argue that the provision of contraception, sterilization and related services by their insurance companies is in effect a subsidy to those practices which may offend individuals with certain religious beliefs. The complaint contends:
[The rule] violates the freedom of speech provided by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution ... because it compels Plaintiffs to subsidize conduct in violation of their moral and religious beliefs[,] ... violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by negating the right of Plaintiffs to act in accordance with their beliefs [and] ... works a substantial burden on the Plaintiffs' ability to freely practice their religion, in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.In a statement [text, PDF], Bruning said, "[t]his regulation forces millions of Americans to choose between following religious convictions and complying with federal law. This violation of the 1st Amendment is a threat to every American, regardless of religious faith." Joining Nebraska in the challenge are Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.
There have been numerous challenges [JURIST timeline] to the constitutionality of various provisions of the PPACA. In January, 26 states submitted a brief to the US Supreme Court [official website] challenging the constitutionality of the expansion of Medicaid for the poor and disabled in the PPACA. In November, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to rule on health care reform law [JURIST report] in three separate cases, originally reserving five-and-half-hours for oral argument on the issue. The Court agreed to hear two hours of arguments on the constitutionality of the individual insurance mandate issue in Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida [docket; cert. petition, PDF]. The Court will consider Issue 1, which asks, "whether Congress had the power under Article I of the Constitution to enact the minimum coverage provision." The Court also directed parties to brief and argue the question of whether the challenge to PPACA is barred by the Anti-Injunction Act [26 USC § 7421(a)], reserving one hour for argument on that issue. The Court consolidated the cases of National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius [docket; cert. petition, PDF] and Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services [docket; cert. petition, PDF] and will hear 90 minutes of oral argument on the question of whether the individual mandate provision can be severed from the remainder of the act. Finally, the court will hear one hour of oral argument on the question of Medicaid expansion.