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Legal victory against Obamacare 'mandate'

A federal appeals court has agreed with three U.S. district judges and blocked the enforcement of the Obamacare “mandate” that would have forced a Missouri company to pay for health insurance including abortifacients in violation of the religious beliefs of the owners.

The order from a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the first from the appellate level among the dozens of cases challenging the Obamacare mandate.

According to officials with the American Center for Law and Justice, the order puts on hold the White House-promoted requirement in the case involving Frank R. O’Brien and O’Brien Industrial Holdings, a St. Louis, Mo., company that runs a number of businesses that explore, mine and process refractory and ceramic raw materials.

“By granting our motion, the appeals court blocks the implementation of the HHS mandate and clears the way for our lawsuit to continue – a significant victory for our client,” said Francis Manion, senior counsel of the ACLJ. “The order sends a message that the religious beliefs of employers must be respected by the government. We have argued from the beginning that employers like Frank O’Brien must be able to operate their business in a manner consistent with their moral values, not the values of the government. We look forward to this case moving forward and securing the constitutional rights of our client.”

In October, a federal district court judge granted Obama’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The ACLJ immediately filed an appeal, and the higher court today granted the motion for an injunction.

The lawsuit was launched in March 2012 and marked the first legal challenge to the HHS mandate from a private business owner and his company, the ACLJ said.

O’Brien, a Catholic, told the ACLJ his religious beliefs provide the framework for the operation of his businesses, which employ 87 people. The company website states the mission “is to make our labor a pleasing offering to the Lord while enriching our families and society.”

Meanwhile, district judges in Colorado, Michigan and Chicago have issued similar rulings to protect companies in those locations while they fight what they describe as a blatant violation of the owners’ religious rights.

Meanwhile, an amicus brief that has been filed in the O’Brien case warns that the mandate is unconstitutional because it failed to abide by the Administrative Procedures Act.

That requires that, “An agency rule would be arbitrary and capricious if the agency has relied on factors which Congress has not intended it to consider, entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the problem, offered an explanation for its decision that runs counter to the evidence before the agency, or is so implausible that it could not be ascribed to a difference in view or the product of agency expertise.”

Critically, the brief filed on behalf of the Bioethics Defense Fund and Life Legal Defense Foundation said, is the section that the regulation fails if “an important aspect” has not been considered.

It explains that the government failed entirely to consider “that the mandated drugs increase risk of disease rather than preventing disease.”

Among the factors the brief cited are that oral contraceptive pills boost the risk of heart attack, stroke and complications, the risk of breast cancer increases, cervical cancer chances increase, uterine perforations from IUDs happen, and a surgical implant to reduce pregnancies can cause “serious thromboembolic events, including cases of pulmonary emboli (some fatal) and strokes.”

In fact, the 8th Circuit already has affirmed a South Dakota law that requires abortionists to inform women seeking to terminate the lives of their unborn babies they also face an increased risk of suicide.

Officials noted that recent ruling was the fourth separate decision from that appeals court affirming the state of South Dakota”s attempts to crack down on unhealthy medical practices by abortionists.

“As a result of this case upholding all eight major provisions of South Dakota’s Abortion Informed Consent Statute, pregnant mothers will now be informed: 1) that ‘an abortion terminates the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being;’ 2) that the mother’s ‘relationship with that second human being enjoys protection under the Constitution of the United States and the laws of South Dakota;’ 3) ‘that relationship and all rights attached to it will be terminated;’ and 4) the abortion places the mother ‘at increased risk for suicide ideation and suicide,'” he said.

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Earlier in the O’Brien case, the government determined that the mandate is a “burden” on religious rights.

“Indeed, defendant [Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen] Sebelius herself has publicly acknowledged that the mandate raises religious concerns,” said a court filing from the the American Center for Law and Justice.

“In a press release issued on Jan. 20, 2012, announcing the finalization of the mandate and the temporary safe harbor period for nonprofit entities that object to contraceptive services, defendant Sebelius opined that the temporary reprieve ‘strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventative services.’

“Subsequently, in a press release issued on July 31, 2012, Sebelius stated that ‘the Obama administration will continue to work with all employers to give them the flexibility and resources they need to implement the health care law in a way that protects women’s health while making common-sense accommodations for values like religious liberty.'”

The legal brief, filed in U.S. district court for the Eastern District of Missouri, continued. “The defendants cannot make a straight-faced argument in this litigation that the mandate does not impose a substantial burden on the exercise of religious beliefs. Indeed, the defendants have postponed for a year the application of regulations that purportedly advance a compelling governmental interest solely because of the burden the defendants themselves recognize that these regulation impose on the exercise of religion.

“Clearly, nothing but a burden of a ‘substantial’ nature could justify such a postponement,” the brief said.

Dozens of Christian organizations around the country, and a number of companies, have launched legal actions over the mandate, which also now may be heading back to the U.S. Supreme Court for review after those justices ordered an appellate court to consider religious rights claims by Liberty University.

And leaders of of a multitude of religious-advocacy groups are warning of the Obamacare contraception mandate consequences for business owners of faith: