Obama administration retreating from contraception mandate?
posted at 12:41 pm on May 7, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
At least in one instance, and it’s an important one. Last November, Tyndale House Publishers won a third injunction against the Department of Health and Human Services to block enforcement of the HHS mandate, while the Obama administration took the absurd position that a publisher of Bibles didn’t qualify for a religious exemption. Yesterday, HHS threw in the towel, at least for now:
In a huge victory for pro-life advocates taking on the controversial HHS mandate, the Obama administration is giving up its effort to force a Bible publisher to obey it.
The mandate has generated massive opposition from pro-life groups because it forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties.
The Obama administration opposed an order a judge gave temporarily stopping enforcement, arguing that Tyndale House Publishers isn’t religious enough for an exemption from the mandate, a component of ObamaCare that forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties.
Now, at the Obama administration’s request, a federal appellate court Friday dismissed the Obama administration’s appeal of an order that stopped President Barack Obama from enforcing his abortion pill mandate against a Bible publisher. The administration’s retreat marks the first total appellate victory on a preliminary injunction in any abortion pill mandate case.
Yes, but let’s emphasize the word temporary here. The fight was over an injunction issued in federal court preventing HHS from enforcing the mandate while the court considered the lawsuit. Courts don’t usually impose such injunctions unless (a) substantial harm will occur while the case is being heard and (b) the petitioner has a good chance of winning on the merits. All that has happened here is that the Obama administration has decided to stop fighting over the temporary order.
That’s not inconsequential, even if it isn’t a total victory. In effect, they’re tacitly admitting that the order does substantial harm and that the petitioner has a case, even if the long-term effects of that admission are mostly political.
Tyndale’s partner in the case, Alliance for Freedom, cheers the decision while emphasizing that the case will still move forward — and needs to do so for other business owners forced to obey a mandate that infringes on their own religious scruples:
“Bible publishers should be free to do business according to the book that they publish,” said Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “The government dismissed its appeal because it knows how ridiculous it sounds arguing that a Bible publisher isn’t religious enough to qualify as a religious employer. For the government to say that a Bible publisher isn’t religious is outrageous, and now the Obama administration has had to retreat in court.”
“We will continue to argue that the administration cannot disregard the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom for all family business owners and must offer a comprehensive exemption to the mandate,” Bowman added. …
Friday’s order from U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit means the preliminary injunction issued by a district court in November of last year will stand while the case, Tyndale House Publishers v. Sebelius, moves forward.
A retreat in this instance doesn’t set a legal precedent, but it may make it more difficult in other cases for the Obama administration to argue against other temporary injunctions, especially in cases where Alliance for Freedom represents the petitioners.