A federal judge has refused the Obama administration’s request to suspend a legal challenge to Obamacare’s contraception mandate because of the partial shutdown of the federal government.
The judge’s ruling Wednesday said that since the White House refused to delay a scheduled implementation of the contraception mandate, it would be unfair to the plaintiffs to delay the court case over the fight in Washington over funding.
The government ran out of money to operate Monday night. Democrats in the Senate refused offer after offer of compromise from the majority Republicans in the House, and President Obama himself said he would refuse to negotiate.
Since then, evidence has indicated the Obama administration is trying to manipulate the shutdown politically. The government, for example, spent extra money to set up barricades around open air memorials in Washington, D.C., and trying to keep World War II veterans from honoring their fallen fellow soldiers.
The judge’s ruling came in a case brought by the American Freedom Law Center that is is before U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The case is on behalf of the international Catholic organization Priests for Life and its director, Frank Pavone, and other employees. They object to Obamacare’s requirement that employers pay for health insurance coverage of contraception, including drugs that are considered abortifacients.
In his pursuit of funding for all abortions, Obama has refused to allow such religious organizations to opt out of the requirement.
The Department of Justice on Tuesday had asked for a stay in the case because of the “lapse” in appropriations as part of the government shutdown.
The judge said a stay would be unfair to the plaintiffs.
He wrote: “The court concludes that a litigation stay would be inappropriate here. This case involves certain, newly ripe issues regarding the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, which will go into effect regarding plaintiffs on January 1, 2014. Plaintiffs filed a preliminary injunction in September, which they agreed to consolidate with a merits determination . . . with the express understanding that the court would resolve the issues prior to December 31, 2013.”
He continued, “Finally, plaintiffs represented in their opposition to the motion for a stay that they offered to consent to the government’s motion if the government would stay enforcement of the contraception mandate against plaintiffs until the court was able to rule on the merits, but the government refused.
“In light of the irreparable harm alleged, the impending time sensitive mandate, and defendants’ refusal to delay enforcement of the mandate as to the plaintiffs in this case, the court finds that an indefinite stay would be incompatible with the fair administration of justice,” he said.
Robert Muise, AFLC senior counsel, said the Obama administration “wanted to ‘shut down’ this litigation for the duration of the government shutdown; yet, it was not willing to ‘shut down’ the enforcement of the contraception mandate.”
“Thankfully, Judge Sullivan recognized this inequity and that the serious legal questions raised in these proceedings need to be resolved irrespective of the ongoing stalemate on Capitol Hill,” Muise said.
David Yerushalmi, another senior counsel for AFLC, said the court’s ruling “is about fundamental fairness.”
“The Obama administration should not be permitted to create the conditions of a government shutdown and then refuse to show up in court to defend a constitutionally offensive contraception mandate the president refuses to suspend during the shutdown,” he said.
The contraception mandate has been the subject of dozens of lawsuits from individuals, groups and corporations that base their decisions on their faith.
The Obamacare rule requires certain religious employers to provide insurance that promotes and facilitates the use of contraceptive services even if it violates the employer’s faith and constitutional and statutory rights, AFLC said.
AFLC had argued in court that Obama himself had declared that the shutdown of the government would not impact the implementation of the health-care law and its mandates.