Judge Rejects Abortion Challenge To The Affordable Care Act

December 03, 2010 9:15 am ET — Matt Trojan

Joining a string of recent procedural rulings and a decision last month, earlier this week a federal district court rejected arguments that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Norman Moon, representing western Virginia, emphatically rejected all nine complaints filed by Jerry Falwell's conservative Liberty University. The plaintiffs made a tenuous argument that, as a non-profit institution, the individual mandate unconstitutionally compels the university to participate in a health care system that discriminates against their religious beliefs on abortion.

Despite the facts, opponents of health care reform used choice as a means of dividing the public, claiming that the ACA would provide public funds for abortion. Liberty University doubled down on this rhetoric, put it to trial, and was flatly rejected.

Liberty University baselessly alleges in the suit:

The Act and Reconciliation Act create a system whereby Plaintiffs cannot protect their sincerely held religious beliefs against facilitating, subsidizing, easing, funding, or supporting abortions. Plaintiffs must choose between forced purchase of a private insurance product that does not protect their sincerely held religious beliefs or paying a punitive penalty for refusing to compromise their religious beliefs.

As noted in the complaint, Liberty University deliberately does not offer coverage for abortion in their health insurance policy. This is their right and they're entitled to it — but they're not entitled to misrepresent the facts. As Judge Moon noted in his opinion, the ACA does not mandate coverage for abortion:

The Act explicitly states that no plan is required to cover any form of abortion services. In every state health benefit exchange, there must be offered at least one plan that does not provide coverage of non-excepted abortion services, which, under current law, are any type of abortion services except in cases of rape or incest or where the life of the woman is endangered. Any state may pass a law prohibiting health plans offered through that state's health benefit exchange from covering any form of abortion services. [Internal citations deleted for clarity]

Moreover, the White House issued an executive order that specifically segregates federal funds from abortion and the law includes additional safeguards. Judge Moon put it bluntly:

Here, Plaintiffs fail 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. 

Judge Moon rejected Liberty University's argument in part because the underlying premise was inaccurate. Opponents of health care reform may have successfully manipulated the ACA in the court of public opinion with hyperbolic and wildly erroneous rhetoric, but those claims crumble in a court of law.