Anti-Contraception Activists Claim Their Suits are Last Resort to Undermine Health Care

Almost immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision this morning upholding the Affordable Care Act as constitutional, anti-abortion and anti-contraception activists began sending out press releases claiming they would continue to fight the law on the grounds that the Act funds abortion care (which is false), and through their lawsuits against the contraception mandate. Short of a Congressional repeal, which Republicans and conservative activists are still talking about, the suits against the contraception mandate remain the last judicial challenges to the law.

As I reported in March, when the Court heard arguments in the case, anti-choice activists were already gearing up to treat the possible upholding of the law as their next Roe v. Wade. They will use it to foment anti-abortion and anti-contraception activism.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents several of the plaintiffs challenging the mandate, put out a press release asserting that the Court’s ruling “means that the numerous legal challenges against the HHS mandate brought by hospitals, universities, businesses, and other organizations will move forward… These lawsuits are the only remaining legal challenges to the health care law.”

These suits, of course, are based on entirely different constitutional grounds than the case decided today, in which the challengers claimed that the individual mandate violated the Commerce Clause. The challenges to the contraception mandate are based on claims that it violates the “deeply held religious beliefs” of Catholic and evangelical institutions, in contravention of the First Amendment’s religion clauses. Similar claims have been rejected by state supreme courts in New York and California, and many constitutional experts believe they will not fare any better in federal court. That has not stopped anti-contraception activists from continuing to litigate these claims in the court of public opinion as the suits go forward.

Americans United for Life, one of the leading purveyors of the falsehood that the ACA funds abortion coverage, sent out a press release titled “Court Ratifies Landmark Anti-Life Healthcare Law.” In the statement, the group’s president, Charmaine Yoest, said the Court “failed to overturn an unconstitutional law that forcibly and unfairly intertwines all Americans and their hard-earned money with the abortion industry,” and claimed the “Obama Administration and the authors of the Affordable Care Act hijacked healthcare reform as a vehicle for forcing their radical pro-abortion agenda on America.” That’s simply false; every effort has been made, and written into the law, to ensure that taxpayer money does not fund abortions.

The new strategy by anti-choice groups, though, is to try to portray Obamacare advocates as waging a war on women, attempting to turn the war on women frame on its head. “Women will be especially hurt by today’s decision,” said Concerned Women for America president Peggy Nance in an overheated statement. “As we have seen with the contraception mandate, the politicization of so-called women issues by the left leaves the majority of women extremely vulnerable to the exploitation of a few radical groups that exert much political influence in Congress and the White House.” 

Meanwhile, Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, which supports the contraception mandate, said the group was pleased with the Supreme Court decision, but “we are also aware, however, that the battle to ensure that individuals can make conscience-based decisions about their health care is not over. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has made clear that it will stop at nothing to block the ability of women and families to access contraception, even if it means derailing policies and programs that provide healthcare to those in need. CFC will continue to speak for the millions of Catholics whose views are not represented by the bishops, and who support increased access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare for all women and men as a matter of social justice and sound public policy.”

UPDATE: Lila Rose, producer of the deceptive anti-Planned Parenthood videos, issues a statement with some truly dubious word choices and arguments:

Today, the Supreme Court has upheld nothing more than a Ponzi scheme to expand the abortion business. If this legislation is not overturned by the next administration, Obamacare’s socialist-style diktats will be used, not to provide better or more affordable health care, but to expand Planned Parenthood’s abortion empire across the backs of American taxpayers and people of conscience—and at the expense of our religious freedoms.

In light of today’s ruling, Americans will greet Independence Day with prayer, sacrifice, and renewed energy to continue our opposition to this mandate. We must also recommit ourselves to restoring full constitutional protections of Life and Liberty to the most vulnerable in our society: unborn children.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email