Liberty U's Health Care Lawsuit Heads to Appeals Court

Liberty University's challenge to the health care reform bill was dismissed Tuesday in a district court. It is now expected to be heard by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Norman Moon rejected claims that the health law does not protect against the mandatory insurance payments being used to fund abortion coverage.

"The Act explicitly states that no plan is required to cover any form of abortion services," the judge wrote.

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Moon ruled that the plaintiffs did not raise a plausible claim that the health care law burdens religious practice and failed to allege "how any payments required under the Act, whether fines, fees, taxes, or the cost of the policy, would be used to fund abortion."

"Indeed, the Act contains strict safeguards at multiple levels to prevent federal funds from being used to pay for abortion services beyond those in cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered."

Along with Liberty University, plaintiffs also include two individuals who oppose the mandates that all individuals purchase insurance by 2014 or face a fine.

The judge also rejected the allegation that by requiring the plaintiffs to purchase health insurance for themselves or their employees from companies that sell plans that do cover abortion, their rights of freedom of speech and association would be violated.

"[T]he purported association here is merely that Plaintiffs will be forced to hold insurance policies in the same health care system in which other policies cover abortion. The connection is too remote to intrude upon Plaintiffs' free association rights," the judge concluded.

Despite the decision, Liberty Counsel President Mathew Staver, whose group represented the plaintiffs in the suit, has high hopes for future appeals.

"I am confident that the federal health care law will eventually be struck down on appeal because it is unconstitutional," Staver said in a statement about the decision.

He continued, "Congress does not have the authority to force every American to purchase a particular kind of health insurance product."

Along with an objection to abortion coverage, Liberty's lawsuit also claimed that the individual mandate to purchase insurance exceeded Congress' power under the Commerce Clause.

But Moon ultimately decided that Congress acted within its authority under the Commerce Clause when it enacted the mandates in the health care law.

Liberty Counsel noted that Moon's ruling on the Commerce Clause claim contradicts decisions from courts in Richmond, Va., and Pensacola, Fla., which have denied similar motions to dismiss lawsuits against the health care law.

According to the Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the authority to regulate commerce among the several states. Though health insurance has historically been regulated by individual states, it can qualify as commerce. However, there is no mention of regulating commerce among individuals.

As a result, there have been several legal challenges to the health care legislation.

Liberty Counsel plans to continue with its appeal.

"The court's ruling on the merits of the Commerce Clause, while wrong, now puts the case on a fast track to the federal court of appeals," said Staver.

The lawsuit will now be placed before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., for an immediate appeal.

Of the 15 pending lawsuits against the health care bill, Liberty's lawsuit may be the first case to reach the court of appeals on the substantive law issue.

Meanwhile, pro-life groups such as the Susan B. Anthony List are pushing for legislation that would permanently block efforts to the federal funding of abortion.

Anti-abortion legislation, entitled the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, has already been introduced in the U.S House of Representatives by New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith and has 185 co-sponsors. The GOP has also promised Americans to pass anti-abortion bills in the next Congressional session through its Pledge to America.

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