Federal judge rules Nevada cannot defend ACA birth control mandate
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Federal judge rules Nevada cannot defend ACA birth control mandate

A federal judge ruled on Monday that the state of Nevada cannot join in litigation against an Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision mandating employers to offer birth control to employees. Nevada attempted to intervene as a defendant in order to defend the provision.

Originally, private citizens and companies sued the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), claiming the contraceptive mandate for employers violates another ACA provision, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The RFRA “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected.” The plaintiffs claim the contraceptive mandate creates a substantial burden on the exercise of their religion. Specifically, they claim it forces them to purchase health insurance that makes them compliant in actions outside their religious beliefs or forego it entirely.

Nevada sought to intervene in the suit because the federal government refused to defend the mandate within this litigation. In order to intervene, Nevada had to show it had a concrete or imminent injury if the provision is held invalid. Nevada argued a classic pocketbook injury, claiming the state would incur many costs for providing women with birth control coverage when their employee health plans fail to do so.

In the opinion, Judge Reed O’Connor denied the state’s intervention. Specifically, O’Connor found Nevada did not adequately prove they will incur a substantial or concrete injury. O’Connor wrote that the injury asserted was too attenuated to qualify as a direct interest in the outcome of this suit.

In a separate order, O’Connor entered a judgment that the plaintiffs were entitled to summary judgment and that the contraceptive mandate violates the RFRA.