March for Life Steps Up Against ACA Mandate

Nicole Saunders, J.D.  

Last week, amidst the media flurry following the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in the Hobby Lobby case, another legal fight began to brew.


As with the Hobby Lobby case, at the heart of this legal battle is the preventative services mandate imposed under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).


At the center of the legal controversy is the pro-life organization March for Life. Last week March for Life and two of its employees filed a lawsuit challenging the mandate. They want the freedom to participate in a health insurance plan that does not violate their pro-life beliefs.


March for Life is a vibrantly pro-life group, founded in 1973 for the express purpose of advocating for the rights of the unborn. All of its employees share its commitment to the protection of the unborn.


March for Life is perhaps best known for its annual Marches for Life, held on or around the 22nd of January each year to protest the Supreme Court’s decision, Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion throughout the United States.


March for Life is represented by attorneys for the Alliance Defending Freedom. In its filing, the pro-life group says that it operates for the purpose of promoting the dignity of the unborn. To that end, it opposes all forms of abortion, including abortions caused by drugs and devices that can prevent or dislodge the implantation of a human embryo after fertilization.


In its lawsuit March for Life explains that it “believes that it should provide all of its employees with health insurance as a responsible business practice, as an essential benefit for employees, and so employees will have a pro-life health insurance option.” But the preventative services mandate forces health insurance plans to include drugs and devices that can prevent or dislodge the implantation of a human embryo after fertilization.


According to March for Life, “The [m]andate applies to all plans that March for Life’s employees have the option of enrolling in, whether at March for Life, on insurance exchanges, or in the individual market.”


The Government created an exemption from the mandate for some religious employers and an accommodation for certain other religious employers. But March for Life asserts it does not qualify for either protection because, although it is pro-life, it is not religious.


March for Life is not alone. The mandate may impose similar burdens on other organizations that, like March for Life, are pro-life but not religious.


In 2012 the Susan B. Anthony List and its education and research arm, the Charlotte Lozier Institute, submitted comments in response to the government’s advanced notice of proposed rulemaking related to the mandate. As those comments explain, SBA and CLI are not “religious organization[s]” nor are they “affiliated with any religion or religious entity.” However, both organizations exist “for the purpose of promoting the right to life of all innocent human beings, especially the most vulnerable, and oppose abortion and other lethal threats to innocent human life,” and their employees “share this purpose.”


As Kevin Theriot, Senior Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, explains “Alliance Defending Freedom’s legal fight for March for Life is a fight for the rights of pro-life organizations everywhere.”


Pro-life organizations should have the freedom to provide employee healthcare plans that do not undermine the very principles those organizations were formed to advance.


Nicole Saunders (J.D. candidate, University of Florida Levin College of Law 2016) is a Blackstone Fellow at Charlotte Lozier Institute.



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