The PJ Tatler

Texas AG Abbott Continues Fight to Overturn ObamaCare's Infringements on Religious Liberties

The state of Texas along with several other states and private individuals will continue the legal war to undo ObamaCare, says the state’s Attorney General Greg Abbott.

On a conference call today, AG Abbott agreed with Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s comment that we “had to pass ObamaCare in order to find out what’s in it.” ObamaCare, said the attorney general, is full of hidden problems that are only coming to light years after the law’s controversial, partisan passage. One of those problems is the Department of Health and Human Services mandate upon religious groups requiring them to purchase goods and services that are contrary to their religious beliefs. The contraceptive and abortifacient mandate is a violation of religious liberties, said Abbott. State attorneys general are the “last line of defense” against federal encroachments on civil liberties, Abbott said.

Texas joined Nebraska and several other states this past summer to challenge the mandate in the US District Court for the district of Nebraska, and that challenge was dismissed due to standing. The Obama administration argued that because it could still modify the rule, the tipping point for the law’s implementation and lawsuits challenging it has not yet been reached. The court agreed.

But in a separate case, a federal court in Colorado issued a temporary injunction against the rule’s implementation. So on Friday, Texas and its co-litigants took their case to the Federal Appeals Court for the 8th Circuit, hoping to overturn the Nebraska court’s ruling.

The mandate, says Abbott, is not just a violation of our constitutional religious liberties, but is also part of an “unprecedented attempt to purge God from the public square and trample the Constitution.” Abbott noted the ugly squabble that took place during the Democrats’ party convention, when God was removed from the party platform, then re-inserted by a voice vote that was questionable at best, then God was booed from the convention floor by Democratic delegates. Abbott also noted the Obama administration’s decision not to defend the bipartisan Defense of Marriage Act, passed overwhelmingly by a Republican Congress and signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton, as one of the many ways that the Obama administration has sought to find ways to work around the laws and the Constitution.

I asked the attorney general why, given the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the ObamaCare individual mandate, did he believe that the religious liberties lawsuit stood any chance of fairing any better. “Justice Robers tried and reached to uphold the law writ large based on Congressional authority to tax and spend,” Abbott said, “but this case does not seek to tear down the entire law, but seeks to have certain groups and individuals protected from the law. There are ways to uphold the intent of the law without violating religious liberties.” For instance, the attorney general said that if the Obama administration really wants to grant everyone access to the contraceptives and abortifacients that the mandate requires, it could have done that under Medicaid rather than force groups to fund those products against their consciences.

Abbott also noted that the Obama administration could choose to exempt groups, as it has chosen to exempt labor unions and some others. The fact that it has not chosen to exempt these groups is a sign that the Obama administration is using the law to “pick winners and losers in our society.” The exemptions have been applied in an “unpredictable, unscientific and ad hoc” method by the administration, the attorney general said.

Texas is joined in the lawsuit by Nebraska, where the case was filed, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Maine, Ohio, South Dakota, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Colorado, as well as several groups including Catholic Social Services of Nebraska, the Catholic Mutual Relief Society of America, and several individuals. The lawsuit is among 27 ongoing efforts to challenge ObamaCare, which Abbott took to characterizing as ObamaTax. He also noted that while the individual mandate applies to US citizens, it does not apply to illegal aliens, who he said will continue to abuse emergency room medical services at taxpayer expense.

The fight that will determine ObamaCare’s ultimate fate is far from over. “We are in the early innings of understanding the legal challenges to how [ObamaCare] will be applied,” Abbott said.

Underscoring Abbott’s point that President Obama finds means to evade clear law and the Constitution, just last week, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was found in violation of the Hatch Act, which forbids federal officers from campaigning on the job. The Obama administration said that she will not be fired for her actions despite the serious violation of longstanding law. Such violations usually result in termination.