Health Reform WK-EDGE Court declines to let ‘pro-life’ organizations intervene in contraceptive mandate rule challenge
Monday, February 12, 2018

Court declines to let ‘pro-life’ organizations intervene in contraceptive mandate rule challenge

By Bryant Storm, J.D.

A "Christ-centered institution of higher learning" and a "pro-life, nonsectarian advocacy organization" were not permitted to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the validity of two Interim Final rules (IFRs) expanding the religious exemption to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) contraceptive mandate. The court held that the organizations—Dordt College and March for Life Education and Defense Fund—failed to establish that their interests would not be adequately represented by the named defendants (Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. HHS, January 29, 2018, Gorton, N.).

IFRs. On October 13, 2017, the Trump Administration issued two IFRs that greatly expanded the scope of the ACA’s contraception coverage exemption (see Contraception coverage exemptions extended for objecting employers on religious, moral grounds, October 11, 2017). The Religious Exemption Rule (82 FR 47838) expanded the exemption from only applying to religiously affiliated nonprofits, houses of worship, and closely-held for-profits, to include all companies, including publicly traded companies. It also eliminated the need for an accommodation process. The Moral Exemption Rule (82 FR 47792) allows nonprofits, closely-held for profits, and private colleges to cease offering contraception coverage based on moral objections.

Motion to intervene. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit alleging that the IFRs violate the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the U.S. Constitution. Dordt College and March for Life moved to intervene in the action, asserting, if Massachusetts is granted the permanent nationwide injunctive relief that it seeks, they will be forced to choose between violating their moral convictions and paying "crippling fines." The court held that the organizations failed to demonstrate a lack of adequate representation of their position by the existing defendants. The court noted that the intervenors shared the same "ultimate objective" as the named party and provided no reason to suppose the named party would not represent their interest.

The case is No. 1:17-cv-11930-NMG.

Attorneys: Julia E. Kobick, Office of the Attorney General, for Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Daniel Riess, U.S. Department of Justice, for U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. Department of Labor and Eric Hargan.

Companies: Commonwealth of Massachusetts; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; U.S. Department of the Treasury; U.S. Department of Labor; Dordt College; March for Life Education and Defense Fund

Cases: CaseDecisions NewsFeed AccessNews AgencyNews ContraceptionCoverageNews PenaltyNews FedTracker HealthCare MassachusettsNews GCNNews

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