State Attorney General Pam Bondi said Wednesday she and the attorneys general of six other states will regroup to consider their options after a federal judge ruled they had no standing, or legal right, to file a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.
“It’s important for people to understand that the court based its decision on procedural grounds and in no way validated the Obama administration’s policy, which clearly infringes the religious liberty guaranteed by our Constitution,” Bondi said in a statement provided by spokeswoman Jennifer Meale.
U.S. District Court Judge Warren K. Urbom of Nebraska ruled Tuesday the states failed to prove they would suffer immediate harm once that part of the law is enacted. Besides Florida and Nebraska, the states bringing the lawsuit included Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas. Other plaintiffs included three Catholic-affiliated employers from Nebraska, a missionary and a nun.
The sweeping health care law, dubbed “Obamacare” by critics, requires in part contraception coverage be included in employee health care plans. Churches and other houses of worship are exempt from the mandate, but it applies to church-related institutions.
Religious organizations rose up against the mandate, saying it violates freedom of religion.
On the other side of the debate are critics like Planned Parenthood, maintaining attempts to overturn the mandate are an assault on access to women’s preventive care.
A May 22 Gallup poll found 82 percent of Catholics in America and 89 percent of all Americans believe contraception is “morally acceptable.”
The states contended, at least in part, Medicaid enrollment would grow if the coverage requirement leads organizations to stop providing insurance to their employees. Urbom found the states didn’t have legal standing to sue, saying their theory “is based on layers of conjecture.” The states’ complaint “merely offers guesses about how independent actors will respond to the rule and speculation that these responses could cause people to qualify for, and obtain, state benefits that they would not otherwise seek, which will then strain the state’s budgets. This is not sufficient to establish standing.”
Urbom also said President Barack Obama’s administration has agreed to work with religious groups to address their concerns.
But Bondi’s statement noted many other lawsuits remain pending across the country.
They include a separate set of 23 federal lawsuits filed by a total of 43 plaintiffs, including Ave Maria University in Naples, seeking to overturn the contraception coverage requirement. The plaintiffs range from Catholic charities groups to the University of Notre Dame.
Ave Maria President Jim Towey was in the forefront of the flurry of lawsuits, filing in late February. The university has decided to stop offering group health insurance plans to students as of Aug. 15.
The Florida News Service and Associated Press contributed to this report.