Appellate Panel Clears Way for Lawsuit Against HHS Contraceptive Mandate

A three-judge appellate panel ruled unanimously last week that a Missouri state senator and his wife can move forward with their lawsuit against Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell over an Obamacare mandate that forces them to purchase health insurance that includes abortifacient contraceptives and sterilization in violation of their religious beliefs.

State Sen. Paul Wieland and his wife, Teresa, a Catholic couple with three daughters who live in suburban St. Louis, initially opted out of contraceptive coverage provided by the Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan (MCHCP), which insures state employees, including members of the state legislature.

But on Aug. 1, 2013 MCHCP withdrew that option, citing the fact that the HHS mandate preempted a Missouri state law that requires insurers to offer contraceptive-free policies, and noting that MCHCP was subject to federal penalties if it did not comply.

MCHCP then placed the Wielands in a healthcare plan that included coverage for contraceptives despite their religious objections, according to court documents.

The Wielands sued HHS in federal court, arguing that the federal mandate prevented them from obtaining a contraceptive-free healthcare plan from MCHCP or any private provider.