The Obama administration filed notice Thursday that it will appeal a federal ruling that blocked it from enforcing its birth control mandate on a pro-life nonprofit known for its massive D.C. rallies against abortion.
In August, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon said the Health and Human Services Department practiced “regulatory favoritism” by exempting houses of worship on grounds that its employees are less likely to want the contraceptives, while rejecting pleas from March for Life, a secular group that says its employees also don’t want contraceptives, particularly those they equate with abortion.
“HHS may be correct that this objection is common among religiously affiliated employers. Where HHS has erred, however, is in assuming that this trait is unique to such organizations. It is not,” wrote Judge Leon, who was appointed to the District of Columbia bench by President George W. Bush.
On Thursday, secretaries of the Treasury and Health and Human Services and Labor departments filed notice with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
The birth control mandate is an outgrowth of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 that requires employers to cover 20 types of drugs and services approved by the Food and Drug Administration as part of their health care plans. Pitched as a boon for women’s health, the rules quickly spawned controversy, with dozens of religious nonprofits and devout business owners filing suit.
Until now, the court battles hinged mainly on religious rather than moral objections to the mandate, and the debate centered on family-owned companies and faith-based nonprofits, not nonreligious businesses.
Judge Leon said the government was being hypocritical when it boxed out March for Life, an organization that shares the same concerns as religious employers that have received exemptions.
March for Life was founded in 1973 after the Supreme Court upheld the right to abortion in its Roe v. Wade decision. Every year, it attracts hundreds of thousands of activists to the National Mall and Capitol Hill to protest the ruling.