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Obama admin. throws in the towel in multiple abortion-pill mandate appeals

ADF also asks court to suspend mandate for March for Life

WASHINGTON – In the face of mounting court losses, the Obama administration Wednesday abandoned its appeals in several abortion-pill mandate lawsuits. The surrender means that existing court orders which protect family businesses in those cases from violating their religious beliefs will stand while the lawsuits proceed.

The administration’s defeat this summer at the U.S. Supreme Court in Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores appears to have prompted the Department of Justice to drop the appeals in The Seneca Hardwood Lumber Company v. Burwell, Armstrong v. Burwell, Briscoe v. Burwell, and the Hobby Lobby case itself. The U.S. Courts of Appeal for the 3rd and 10th Circuits granted the administration’s requests Thursday.

“All Americans should oppose unjust laws that force people – under threat of punishment by the IRS – to give up their freedom to live and work according to their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “The administration was right to abandon its fight against the family businesses involved in these particular cases in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in June. In a free and diverse society, we respect the freedom to live out our convictions. For these families, that means not being forced to participate in distributing abortion drugs and devices.”

The Department of Health and Human Services mandate forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy financial penalties through the IRS. The preliminary injunctions that the federal district courts issued in all of the cases where the administration is dropping its appeals will remain in effect until the cases are litigated to conclusion.

On Tuesday, ADF attorneys representing the non-profit March for Life filed a motion for a permanent injunction in that organization’s lawsuit against the abortion-pill mandate. The motion argues that the administration’s recent rule changes concerning the mandate offer no relief for pro-life organizations that are not religious. If granted, the injunction would suspend enforcement of the mandate against the well-known pro-life organization, which has held an annual march in Washington, D.C., against abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

“Clearly, pro-life organizations should be free to operate according to the foundational beliefs for which they exist,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “Abortion is the very tragedy March for Life and other pro-life groups oppose. We are asking the court to stop the government from forcing March for Life to act contrary to its core convictions while its lawsuit moves forward. If the government can continue to do that, there’s no limit to what other freedoms it can take away from anyone.”

ADF attorneys and allied attorneys are litigating numerous lawsuits against the abortion-pill mandate across the country.

  • Pronunciation guide: Bowman (BOH'-min), Theriot (TAIR’-ee-oh)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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Matt Bowman
Matt Bowman
Senior Counsel, Director of Regulatory Practice
Matt Bowman serves as senior counsel and director of regulatory practice at Alliance Defending Freedom, where he focuses on the impact of administrative law on religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and family.
Kevin Theriot
Kevin Theriot
Senior Counsel
Kevin Theriot serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom