Thursday, August 15, 2013

New Contraceptive Coverage Challenge-- Individual Employee Seeks Religious Exemption

In the wake of dozens of lawsuits by for-profit businesses challenging the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate on religious liberty grounds, yesterday the other shoe dropped as an individual-- who happens to also be a state legislator-- sued to obtain a court order allowing him to opt out of contraceptive coverage provided in his employer's plan. The complaint (full text) in Wieland v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (ED MO, filed 8/14/2013), alleges that previously legislator Paul Wieland and his wife were able to choose a state health plan that did not cover contraceptives, abortifacients or sterilization, but that because of the mandate his insurer notified him that effective August 1 he would be placed in a plan that covers contraception and sterilization.  The complaint contends that plaintiffs, because of their Christian religious beliefs, do not want to furnish this coverage for their three daughters, age 12, 18 and 19. It contends that their premiums went up to pay for contraceptive and sterilization coverage, and that their premiums also partially fund medical services to other employees covered under the same plan.

In the complaint, plaintiffs cite Mo. Rev. Stat. § 191.724, enacted last year, that provides: "No employee... shall be compelled to obtain coverage for, or be discriminated against or penalized for declining or refusing coverage for, abortion, contraception, or sterilization in a health plan if such items or procedures are contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of such employee or person."  A related provision of Missouri law was declared invalid by a federal court last year. (See prior posting.) The complaint filed yesterday contends that the mandate violates plaintiffs' rights under RFRA, the 1st and 5th Amendments and the Administrative Procedure Act. Thomas More Society announced the filing of the lawsuit. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports on the suit.