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Supreme Court soon to decide whether to tackle abortion-pill mandate’s sham ‘accommodation’

ADF attorneys represent four Oklahoma Christian universities

WASHINGTON – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday that responds to Obama administration arguments against high court review of the abortion-pill mandate and its misnamed “accommodation” for some non-profit organizations. ADF represents four Christian universities in Oklahoma that filed suit against the administration.

On July 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit upheld the mandate, which forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide health plans that create access to abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties. The four universities – Southern Nazarene University, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Oklahoma Baptist University, and Mid-America Christian University – specifically object to facilitating access to abortifacients and filed a petition with the Supreme Court on July 24. The justices are scheduled to consider the petition and six others at their Oct. 30 conference.

“The government has no business forcing faith-based organizations to be involved in providing abortion pills to their employees or students,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor. “These Christian universities simply want to abide by the very faith they espouse and teach. They should not be forced to choose between giving up their fundamental freedoms or paying financial penalties. The Supreme Court should reverse the 10th Circuit’s decision to ensure that people of faith will not be punished for making decisions consistent with that faith.”

ADF attorneys and allied attorneys represented Conestoga Wood Specialties and its owners in their victory against the abortion-pill mandate at the U.S. Supreme Court last year. ADF and others are now asking the Supreme Court to weigh in on cases involving non-profit organizations.

Although the administration argues that executing and submitting a so-called “accommodation” form insulates religious nonprofits from the provision of abortifacients, the reply brief filed inSouthern Nazarene University v. Burwell explains that is not the case.

The form directly involves the Christian universities in providing abortifacients in multiple ways by, for example: (1) altering their health plans to allow for the provision of such drugs or devices, (2) requiring them to notify or identify to the government who their insurers or third-party administrators are so that they can provide the drugs or devices on the universities’ behalf, (3) officially authorizing their TPA as a plan and claims administrator solely for the purpose of providing the items, and (4) requiring them to identify and contract with a TPA that is willing to provide the drugs and devices to which they religiously object.

As the reply brief explains, “the government cannot answer one simple yet vital question: If it is true that religious nonprofits are totally removed from providing abortifacient contraceptives, why force them to participate in the accommodation scheme…? The answer is that the so-called accommodation does not isolate the Universities from the provision of abortifacients at all. Rather, as Petitioners have explained…, the accommodation is a ‘long and winding extension cord the government uses to power its contraceptive mandate,’ which not only ‘gets its power from…nonprofits’ health plans,’ but which the government forces ‘nonprofits to plug in…themselves by signing the self-certification or providing the alternative notice.’”

ADF attorneys and allied attorneys are also litigating numerous other lawsuits against the mandate.

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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Gregory S. Baylor
Gregory S. Baylor
Senior Counsel, Director of the Center for Religious Schools
Gregory S. Baylor serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he is the director of the Center for Religious Schools and senior counsel with the Center for Public Policy.