The Southern Baptist Convention’s health and financial benefits division filed the first lawsuit directly against the federal government challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s birth control mandate. The suit was filed in Oklahoma City last week.
The Baptist Press reports that GuideStone Financial Resources, along with Oklahoma City-based Reaching Souls International and Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, GA, said in the suit that the religious freedom these agencies have under the First Amendment is being violated by the mandate for them to pay for birth control, which includes abortifacients.
According to the report, GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said in a written release from the entity earlier today:
GuideStone plans do not cover drugs or devices that can or do cause abortions. We reluctantly take this step because we are committed to protecting the unborn and preserving the religious freedom that is guaranteed under the laws of this nation[.] … This mandate runs rough-shod over these foundational principles.
The story says that the agencies are seeking a preliminary injunction against the January 1, 2014 implementation until the judicial process is complete and adds:
The lawsuit cites 16 counts against HHS and its mandate, including violations of the First Amendment’s free exercise and establishment clauses and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Foes of the abortion/contraception mandate say HHS has provided adequate conscience protections for churches and affiliated auxiliaries, but not for other religious institutions.
The story also notes:
From the outset of this unacceptable mandate, GuideStone has diligently pursued a number of avenues with Congress and the Administration to protect those we serve. While we have secured some partial relief, it does not go far enough. Many ministry organizations are still in harm’s way despite the fact that they also share core convictions regarding the sanctity of life.
At issue with these agencies and others that are religious in nature but not protected by the narrow ACA exemption are methods of birth control often regarded by pro-lifers as being abortifacients, such as the morning-after pill and even birth control pills and the IUD, which will allow an egg to be fertilized but thin the lining of the uterus so that it cannot hold the fertilized egg and expels it early on. Pro-life writer Randy Alcorn details this information in this article, in which he cites the medical evidence of the moral dilemma and says:
Some forms of contraception, specifically the intrauterine device (IUD), Norplant, and certain low-dose oral contraceptives, often do not prevent conception but prevent implantation of an already fertilized ovum. The result is an early abortion, the killing of an already conceived individual. Tragically, many women are not told this by their physicians, and therefore do not make an informed choice about which contraceptive to use.
Indeed, the Southern Baptist report has this same issue, saying:
Drugs covered by the HHS mandate include Plan B and other “morning-after” pills that possess a post-fertilization mechanism that can cause an abortion by preventing implantation of tiny embryos. The rule also covers ‘ella,’ which — in a fashion similar to the abortion drug RU 486 – can even act after implantation to end the life of the child.
The question of religious freedom in regards to the pro-life issue is front and center, and ultimately, the courts will decide. This time the defendant is the United States government itself. A Dallas law firm, Locke Lord LLP, filed the lawsuit in conjunction with the Becket Fund, the story says, and the case is GuideStone v. Sebelius (Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services).