Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Commonwealth v. United States Department of Health and Human Services

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

January 29, 2018

Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Plaintiff,
v.
United States Department of Health and Human Services; Eric D. Hargan, in his official capacity as Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services; United States Department of the Treasury; Steven T. Mnuchin, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Treasury; United States Department of Labor; and R. Alexander Acosta, in his official capacity as Secretary of Labor, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Nathaniel M. Gorton United States District Judge

         This case involves a dispute about the validity of two Interim Final Rules (“IFRs”) issued by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the United States Department of the Treasury and the United Stated Department of Labor (collectively “defendants” or “the departments”) on October 6, 2017. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (“plaintiff” or “the Commonwealth”) alleges that the departments' issuance of the IFRs violates the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”) and the United States Constitution. The IFRs expand the religious exemption to the Affordable Care Act's (“ACA”) contraceptive mandate and create a new moral exemption to that mandate.

         Dordt College, a “Christ-centered institution of higher learning located in Sioux Center, Iowa, ” and March for Life Education and Defense Fund (“March for Life”), a “pro-life, non-sectarian advocacy organization” located in Washington, D.C., are employers that wish to avail themselves of, respectively, the expanded religious exemption and the moral exemption. Both employers seek to avoid having to provide certain hormonal drugs and devices, perceived to be abortifacients, which are required by the contraceptive mandate.

         Pending before the Court is the motion to intervene of Dordt College and March for Life (collectively “putative intervenors”). Because the putative intervenors have failed to establish that their interests will not be adequately represented by the named defendants, that motion will be denied.

         I. Background

         A. Dordt College and March for Life

         Dordt College is a Reformed Christian institution of higher education located in Sioux Center, Iowa. The College is a non-denominational agency of the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA). An incorporated society composed primarily of the CRCNA owns and controls the College. The College “unreservedly shares the Christian Reformed Church's religious views regarding abortion.” That includes the belief that the procurement of, participation in, facilitation of, or payment for abortion (including abortion-causing drugs and devices like Plan B and ella) violate the Sixth Commandment and is inconsistent with the dignity conferred by God on creatures made in His image.

         The College also fulfills its religious commitments by providing health insurance to employees and their dependents and to students through a student health plan. The employee health plan offers various FDA-approved contraceptive methods but “excludes ella and Plan B, which can and sometimes do act as abortifacients.” March for Life is a nonprofit advocacy group that exists “to oppose the destruction of human life at any stage before birth, including by abortifacient methods.” The organization, “[based] on scientific fact and medical knowledge . . . holds as a basic tenet that human life begins at conception.” Accordingly, March for Life is morally opposed to providing coverage for abortions or abortifacients in its health insurance plan. The organization opposes coverage of certain hormonal drugs and devices included in the ACA's contraceptive mandate that “may prevent or dislodge an implanted human embryo after fertilization, thereby causing its death.” B. The contraceptive mandate The ACA generally requires that employer-sponsored healthcare plans include a range of preventive care services on a no-cost basis (“the preventive services requirement”). See 42 U.S.C. §§ 18022 & 300gg-13. That requirement mandates no-cost coverage

with respect to women, . . . as provided for in comprehensive guidelines supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration [“HRSA”].

S. Amdt. 2791, 111th Congress (2009-2010).

         Thus, instead of including specific preventive care services, Congress delegated authority to HRSA, an agency within HHS. HRSA and HHS enlisted the Institute of Medicine (“IOM”), which convened a committee to assess what preventive services should be included. The IOM recommended that the services include

the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for women with reproductive capacity.

IOM Report at 104.

         Accordingly, when the HRSA promulgated its Women's Preventive Services Guidelines in August 2011, non-exempt employers became required to provide “coverage, without cost sharing, ” for “[a]ll Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling” (“the contraceptive mandate”). Those guidelines went into effect in August, 2012. The HRSA updated the Women's Preventive Services Guidelines in December 2016, reaffirming that the Guidelines should continue to require full coverage for contraceptive care and services.

         C. Accommodations for religious objections to the contraceptive mandate

         In 2011, the relevant federal Departments issued regulations automatically exempting churches and their integrated auxiliaries, conventions and associations of churches and the exclusively religious activities of religious orders from the contraceptive care requirement.

         In 2013, the Departments issued regulations providing an accommodation for objecting religious non-profit organizations. The accommodation created a system whereby insurers and third parties paid the full cost of contraceptive care and employees received seamless coverage (“the accommodation process”). That process was expanded to cover closely held, for-profit companies in response to Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 2751 (2014), in which the Supreme Court held that the contraceptive mandate violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) for certain closely-held, for-profit employers. The Court held that the “HHS contraceptive mandate substantially burden[ed] the exercise of religion.” Id. at 2775 (internal quotation omitted) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1(a)). The accommodation process, the Court explained, was a “less restrictive means” of furthering the government interest and thus RFRA required that the accommodation be expanded to include certain closely held corporations. Id. at 2780.

         In a separate series of cases, religious organizations such as universities and healthcare providers that did not perform “exclusively religious activities” challenged the legality of the accommodation process itself. See Zubik v. Burwell, 136 S.Ct. 1557 (2016). In May, 2016, those cases were remanded to their respective circuit courts for further consideration of whether the accommodation process could be altered to address the religious employers' concerns while still providing seamless contraceptive coverage. In January, 2017, after reviewing more than 50, 000 comments, the Departments announced that the answer was “No”. No alternative, the Departments explained, would pose a lesser burden on religious exercise while ensuring contraceptive coverage.

         D. The ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.