Did you think the legal challenges to Obamacare would end after the Supreme Court largely upheld it in 2012? Think again.
Conservatives haven’t given up on their quest to gut Obamacare through a variety of creative lawsuits — many of which have yet to be decided in court.
Attempting to track every anti-Obamacare lawsuit would be like attempting to track every fish in the ocean. So here’s a guide the right’s five most prominent legal arguments aimed at collapsing Obamacare.
The Birth Control Mandate Violates Religious Freedom!
BACKGROUND: Citing religious concerns, several employers have sued to block an Obamacare regulation requiring for-profit businesses to cover contraception for female employees without co-pays as part of their insurance plans. A lawsuit by Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based retail chain that closes on Sunday in an effort to comply with the Bible, contends that the rule violates the owners’ ability to live and do businesses in accordance with their religious beliefs. The case is set to be heard by the Supreme Court this spring.
LEGAL ARGUMENT: The mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which says laws that substantially burden religious liberty must have a compelling governmental interest and be narrowly tailed to meet that interest. (Counterpoint: For-profit businesses that employ and serve members of the general public aren’t substantially burdened; they’re merely required to provide employees with the same basic standard of health coverage as their counterparts.)
AT STAKE: The implications of a ruling against the government in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius could be profound and far-reaching. It could expand the concept of corporate personhood by granting religious liberty to corporations, potentially opening the door for corporations to mount religious-based challenges all sorts of laws that they don’t want to follow.
Opting Out Of Birth Control Coverage Also Violates Religious Freedom!
BACKGROUND: A separate legal challenge to the birth control mandate, which achieved its first success last week with an emergency injunction from the Supreme Court, has been brought by religious nonprofits who aren’t content with the accommodation that lets them opt out of birth control coverage and puts the onus on the insurer to provide the coverage without co-pays. These Roman Catholic organizations, of whom the lead plaintiff is a group of nuns in Colorado, argue that signing the opt-out form also violates their religious freedom by makes them complicit in helping their female employees gain access to contraceptives.
LEGAL ARGUMENT: Forcing religious nonprofits to sign the opt-out form is illegal under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because it serves as a permission slip for the insurer to provide birth control to female employees. (Counterpoint: These organizations aren’t required to pay for any such coverage and signing a form to utilize the opt-out feature doesn’t burden them.)
AT STAKE: The merits of the case have yet to be heard by the lower courts, but Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s recent decision to temporarily halt the mandate breathes some life into the lawsuit after lower courts denied an emergency stay. If the nuns ultimately win their challenge, it could significantly weaken the birth control mandate by further expanding the carve-out for religious groups.
Obamacare Is Unconstitutional Because The Senate Wrote It First!
BACKGROUND: A lawsuit led by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), backed by some 40 Republicans, invokes a part of Constitution to argue that Obamacare is invalid because the crux of the legislation was written and first passed by the Senate.
LEGAL ARGUMENT: The origination clause of the Constitution says bills that raise revenue must originate in the House of Representatives. (Counterpoint: That provision is designed to give the House the first bite at the apple at revenue-raising bills — by letting them use a “blue slip” to nix such bills that pass the Senate first — not to overturn duly enacted laws.)
AT STAKE: Chief Justice John Roberts on Monday turned down a request for an emergency injunction by a group of doctors who filed a lawsuit making this argument. The case is highly unlikely to go anywhere as the provision of the Constitution has not been interpreted this way for countless revenue-raising bills written by the Senate and passed by the House — including the Republican-led House in recent years. Success for the lawsuit would set an astounding new legal precedent that threatens to take down other laws. Roberts didn’t feel the need to explain his decision.