States say health care law violates economic freedoms and religious consciences

President Obama speaks on the health care reform bill. Credit: White House.
President Obama speaks on the health care reform bill. Credit: White House.


Parallel to the actions of 13 states’ attorneys general, the Thomas More Law Center has filed a lawsuit challenging the health care reform bill. The suit argues that it is unconstitutional to force someone to purchase health care coverage and to force those who object to pay for abortions.

Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Law Center, claimed the health care bill was “a product of political corruption and the exercise of unconstitutional power.” A successful lawsuit would ensure “a limited form of government,” he said.

Plaintiffs in the suit are the Law Center and four individuals from southeastern Michigan. Defendants are President Obama, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, who are being sued in their official capacity.

According to the complaint, filed in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, because of their “deeply held religious beliefs” the plaintiffs object to “being forced by the federal government to contribute in any way to the funding of abortion.” Abortion funding is contrary to their First Amendment rights of conscience and free exercise of religion, the complaint continues.

The lawsuit also charges that the health care reform law imposes unconstitutional government mandates on citizens. It challenges Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause to pass the law, and claims violations of the Tenth Amendment which reserves power for the states and the people.

“Let’s face it, if Congress has the power to force individuals to purchase health insurance coverage or pay a federal penalty merely because they live in America, then it has the unconstrained power to mandate that every American family buy a General Motors vehicle to help the economy or pay a federal penalty,” Thompson argued.

He commented that Americans agree on the need for reform of health care, but said they do not want reform “by trampling on our Constitution.”

Attorneys general from 13 U.S. states have also filed a lawsuit charging that the Constitution “nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage."

Lawrence Friedman, a professor who teaches constitutional law at the New England School of Law in Boston, told the Associated Press that he believes the lawsuit has little chance of success.

The state officials argue the federal law unconstitutionally forces the states to carry out its provisions but does not reimburse them for costs. They add that states cannot afford the new law. They claim Florida will pay an additional $150 million in 2014, growing to $1 billion a year by 2019.

Other states are considering joining the 13 states or filing separate lawsuits.

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