[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Virginia [official website] on Tuesday dismissed [opinion, PDF] a lawsuit challenging a provision of the health care reform law [HR 3590 text; JURIST news archive] requiring all individuals to maintain health insurance. The lawsuit, filed by Liberty University [academic website], alleged that Congress had exceeded its constitutional powers by mandating that employers provide health insurance or face financial penalties, requiring individuals to purchase health insurance, and that the law violates the university’s religious beliefs because the penalties could be used to fund abortions [JURIST news archive]. Judge Norman Moon, citing a similar ruling [JURIST report] in a Michigan federal court, found that the mandate provisions were constitutional under the Commerce Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder]. Concerning the second issue, Moon ruled that the plaintiffs had not raised a plausible claim that the law is a burden to religious practices.
[Plaintiffs] fail to allege how any payments required under the Act, whether fines, fees, taxes, or the cost of the policy, would be used to fund abortion. Indeed, the Act contains strict safeguards at multiple levels to prevent federal funds from being used to pay for abortion services beyond those in cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered. Furthermore, at least one plan that does not cover non-excepted abortion services will be offered for enrollment through each of the state health benefit exchanges, as required by the Act. Moreover, the Act specifically allows plans in the exchanges to decline to cover all abortion services whatsoever, including excepted abortion services.
Liberty University will appeal the decision immediately to the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website].
The health care reform law is the subject of numerous legal challenges across the country. In October, a federal judge in Florida denied a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] a lawsuit alleging violations of Article I and the Tenth Amendment of the US Constitution [text], committed by levying a tax without regard to census data, property or profession, and for invading the sovereignty of the states. In August, a federal judge allowed a similar lawsuit filed in Virginia to proceed on narrow grounds [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], addressing only subject matter jurisdiction [Cornell LII backgrounder] and the legal sufficiency of the complaint.