The US Supreme Court on Thursday denied an application for an emergency writ of injunction against Indiana University’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, upholding the rulings of the two lower courts.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett denied the application without seeking response from the university or the state and without referring it for a vote to the full Court.
The plaintiffs argued that because Indiana University’s vaccination mandate encroaches on constitutional rights to bodily autonomy and integrity, it should be subjected to heightened judicial scrutiny and Indiana University should have to prove that its mandate is justified.
According to the application, the students are adults and therefore “entitled to make their own medical treatment decisions, and have a constitutional right to bodily integrity, autonomy, and of medical treatment choice in the context of a vaccination mandate.”
However, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit already rejected this argument earlier this month, pointing to the relatively limited scope of the mandate and the numerous exemptions it offers. The Seventh Circuit particularly noted that “six of the eight plaintiffs have claimed a religious exception, and a seventh is eligible for it” adding that those who do not want to get vaccinated have the freedom of choice in attending the ample number of other universities that do not require vaccination against SARS-CoV-2.
Indiana University’s vaccination policy requires that all students, faculty, and staff be fully vaccinated or have an approved religious, medical, or ethical exemption before returning to campus.
The lack of referral to the full court and not seeking a response from the university on the emergency injunction application is seen by legal commentators as a sign that the Court does not consider this a “particularly close case.”
This is the third consecutive defeat for the students in less than a month. Attorney for the students, James Bopp, noted the students’ disappointment with the Supreme Court’s refusal to intervene and stated that the students intend to continue to fight in the lower courts.
Insofar as the injunction is concerned, this may not be possible because the lower courts have already ruled on the matter. Thus, the students will have to argue the case on merits and potentially go to trial while the vaccine mandate remains in place.