A D.C. circuit court will hear an appeal that combines the cases of both colleges sometime after mid-November.
Emily Hardman, communications director for the Becket Fund, explained Oct. 9 that predicting a timeline for the rulings in the remaining cases is difficult because "each court can set their own times."
Even tougher would be guessing a timeline for a potential Supreme Court ruling, because that would require the cases to work themselves through the judicial system and be accepted for review by the nation's highest court.
However, Hardman observed that many insurance plans renew on Jan. 1, 2013, so the plaintiffs that are not protected by the "safe harbor" are likely to at least receive a ruling on whether they will be granted a temporary injunction by the end of the year.
She also pointed out that the results of the presidential election could offer a wave of relief to all of the plaintiffs at once. Republican candidate Mitt Romney has pledged to repeal the mandate, and his election in November would translate into a victory for everyone who is suing over the mandate.
But even if this happens, there is still need to be cautious, Hardman acknowledged. Some states have similar mandates that threaten religious freedom, although they are generally not as severe.
"The Becket Fund will continue fighting," she stressed.
Hardman said there is a need to engage the "public discussion" about the importance of religious freedom.
She noted that rhetoric about women's health and a "war on women" has become prominent in recent months, and this language could be leading people to believe that women have an inviolable right to free contraception at the expense of their employers.
It is important to counter these claims with facts, Hardman said. She explained that contraception is already widely available at low cost, so there is no crisis in access.
When people "look at what the mandate is actually doing," she said, they realize that returning to the system that was in place before the mandate took effect on Aug. 1 would not mean oppressing women, but leaving them free to purchase contraception as they see fit.
Educating the public about the nature of religious freedom is critical, agreed Duncan.
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"Even if this mandate is scrapped, the bad principle behind the mandate must not be forgotten," he said, warning that it could "justify forcing religious people, organizations, and businesses to provide not only drugs their faith forbids, but also services such as abortion and assisted-suicide."