Twelve attorneys general threaten to sue over contraception mandate

Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaks with reporters outside of the White House Credit HHS Chris Smith CNA US Catholic News 2 6 12 Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaks with reporters outside of the White House. | HHS Chris Smith

Attorneys general from a dozen states say they intend to sue over the Obama administration's contraception mandate that requires many religious employers to violate the teachings of their faith.

In a Feb. 10 letter, the attorneys general voiced their “strong opposition” to the mandate, which they called “an impermissible violation of the Constitution's First Amendment virtually unparalleled in American history.”

They said that if the mandate is implemented, they are prepared to “vigorously oppose it in court.”

The letter was sent to the Department of Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebilius, Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner and Labor secretary Hilda Solis.

It was signed by Nebraska attorney general Jon Bruning, who was joined by the attorneys general of Texas, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Colorado.

Bruning and his fellow attorneys general said that they are “deeply troubled” by the mandate’s “unprecedented coercion of organizations and individuals to act contrary to their religious beliefs.”

They decried the mandate for forcing religious employers to choose between effectively promoting “a message in contravention with their religious principles” and ceasing “activities of incalculable value” to society. 

The Obama administration has come under fire for the recently-announced mandate, which will require virtually all employers to purchase health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and drugs that induce abortions at no cost to employees.

Faced with a storm of protest, the administration announced an “accommodation” for religious freedom on Feb. 10. Rather than directly purchasing the coverage they object to, religious employers under the new policy would be forced to buy health care plans from insurance companies that would be required to offer these products free of charge.

Many critics have been quick to suggest that insurance companies will factor the “free” contraceptives into the pricing of health care plans, and so employers will ultimately be billed for the coverage, thus forcing them to violate their consciences.

Bruning has said that he is not satisfied with the “accommodation,” which he described as a false compromise that “still tramples on religious freedom.”

He and the other attorneys general urged the Obama administration to reconsider its decision, which they said is not only a “bad policy” but also “unconstitutional.”

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