In February, President Obama famously announced that the administration planned to modify the published rule to move the burden from the institutions to insurers. But lawsuit backers say a dirty little secret likely will block Obama administration efforts to quash the lawsuits – no such change ever actually was made to the rule.
“We have a decent chance that they will make it through because we have a filed rule with a vague statement that they may change it next year after the election,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel and executive director of the Judicial Crisis Network. “There’s a rule on paper, and that’s a rule they are challenging.
“They (the Obama administration) are really kicking the can down the road until they don’t have to do anything specific.”
President Obama made it clear that his administration has no plans to back down during a meeting with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“There are just one-sided accounting tricks as far as anyone is concerned,” Severino said.
What happens with these lawsuits depends on several factors, namely whether or not the Supreme Court declares Obamacare unconstitutional or who ends up as president in Jan. 2013.
“Mitt Romney has been very clear [in favor of] religious freedom,” Severino said.
Romney received an award from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, one of the groups bringing the lawsuits against the mandate, several years ago in recognition of his support for religious freedom, according to Severino.
“[Several years ago] he was given an award by Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is no question. Chance with the invidual mandate. Strike down entire law. This issue will go away several potential routes.
Severino also sees a slight possibility that the Obama administration could scrap the rule under election-year pressure.
In the event none of the aforementioned scenarios materializes, she sees a strong possibility that it will never make it to the U.S. Supreme Court because the lower courts likely would decide decisively against the rule.
She argues that the rule violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act , which aims to limit laws that burden the free exercise of religion.
“We are confident that the federal trial courts will see the abortion-drug mandate for what it is — an unprecedented and unconstitutional infringement of Americans’ right to religious freedom. The government has filed two motions to dismiss in the Belmont Abbey case (Washington D.C. federal district court) and in the Colorado Christian University case (Denver, Colorado federal district court),” Hannah C. Smith, senior counsel with the Becket Fund, said in an e-mailed statement. “We believe that those two courts will agree with us that our clients have standing to sue and that the cases are ready to be decided now according to the prevailing legal precedents that govern these issues. “
Smith vows that the Becket Fund will press ahead up to the Supreme Court level if necessary.