The U.S. District Judge Jean Hamilton has ruled in the State Senator of Missouri’s favor, who filed a lawsuit citing that his state health insurance plan violates his family’s religious beliefs for including contraception coverage.
As devoted Roman Catholics, sen. Paul Wieland and his wife, Teresa cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which “prohibits any agency, department, or official of the United States or any State (the government) from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except that the government may burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person: (1) furthers a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”
Hamilton’s ruling reveals another flaw in Obama’s health care law, which requires insurers to include coverage of contraception. According to the court’s decision, the president’s birth control mandate violates the less-restrictive standard mentioned in the Religious Freedom act.
“I think this sets a precedent, so that if anybody else has religious convictions and they find these drugs offensive … they can use this as a court case to base their claims on,” said Wieland.
Previously, the Wielands and others in the state of Missouri had the option to decline contraceptive coverage. But the federal Affordable Care Act forced them to accept this type of coverage, even though it went against their religious beliefs.
The birth control mandate doesn’t currently offer an alternative, like letting the Wielands opt out of the contraception coverage. Because of this, Hamilton stated that the mandate put the family a challenging situation.
“The only way plaintiffs can comply with their religious conscience is by dropping their insurance altogether, which would result in them foregoing a valuable job benefit; in the assessment of thousands of dollars per year in fines pursuant to the individual mandate; … and in leaving their daughters without health insurance,” wrote Hamilton in the ruling.
The case was originally dismissed in October 2013, but it was sent for reconsideration in July 2015 by a federal appeals court panel. Wieland’s attorney cited the Hobby Lobby case whereas the US Supreme Court decision allows private companies with religious objections to opt out of the birth control requirement. So, why shouldn’t private individuals be able to do the same?
Although this ruling points out a major defect in Obama’s healthcare system, the legal fight is far from over.
“I’m afraid the federal government is probably going to appeal, and this is just one step in the process,” said Wieland.