Attorneys with Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom representing March for Life filed their opening brief Monday asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to reinstate the Trump administration’s HHS rules that release religious and pro-life nonprofits from the Obama-era abortion-pill mandate.
The Obama administration implemented the mandate to force employers, regardless of their moral convictions, to provide their employees with abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy financial penalties.
“No one should be forced by the government to provide life-destroying drugs and devices,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christen Price. “HHS rightly freed organizations like March for Life and the Little Sisters of the Poor from the abortion-pill mandate that required them to violate their consciences and provide abortion-inducing drugs and devices through their employee health plans. Now, in response to a lawsuit filed by California and other states, a federal judge has issued a nationwide order that blocks the new rules. We are asking the 9th Circuit to reverse that order so that pro-life organizations can pursue their missions consistent with their consciences.”
In 2014, March for Life challenged the abortion-pill mandate in March for Life v. Burwell, which is currently on hold with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit as the parties attempt to bring the case to a close.
The new HHS rules, issued in October 2017, freed a number of nonprofits from the Obama-era mandate and paved the way to potential resolution of numerous outstanding lawsuits.
On Oct. 6, 2017, the same day that HHS issued its interim final rules protecting religious organizations and other secular nonprofits, the state of California—later joined by Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Virginia—filed the lawsuit State of California v. Azar in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to challenge the rules. On Dec. 21, the court granted the states’ request to block implementation of the rules.
In December 2017, March for Life asked the court to allow it to participate in the case. After the court granted that request, ADF attorneys filed an appeal on behalf of March for Life asking the 9th Circuit to overturn the district court’s decision to temporarily block the new HHS rules.
Brian R. Chavez-Ochoa of the Chavez-Ochoa Law Offices in Valley Springs, California, one of more than 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as co-counsel on behalf of March for Life.