A federal judge ruled May 15 in favor of four Oklahoma Christian colleges that sued the government over the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive and abortifacient mandate.
“The fact that this court did what it did will have some persuasive power for another judge considering a similar request,” said Gregory Baylor, an attorney representing the schools.
Since the case began in 2013, the political scene has changed significantly. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act took effect under then–President Barack Obama. It required businesses and nonprofits to provide employees with health benefits, including contraceptives and abortifacient drugs. If organizations failed to provide those services, they faced fines.
President Donald Trump scratched the contraceptive and abortifacient mandate, aligning the views of the government and the Christian universities. Nevertheless, the schools still needed legal protection because a future president could reverse Trump’s decision, Baylor said.
In addition, Trump’s decision has already been challenged in court and blocked by federal judges. “Therefore, the rules, at present, don’t provide anyone any protection,” Baylor said.
The ruling caps a long legal battle for Mid-America Christian University, Oklahoma Baptist University, Oklahoma Wesleyan University and Southern Nazarene University. The year after their 2013 filing, the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby and other privately owned corporations did not have to provide employees with the medications they opposed. But in 2015, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Christian colleges.
The universities, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. When justices saw that the universities may be able to compromise with the Obama administration, they sent the case back to lower courts, but the sides could not reach a settlement. The case was taken up again in U.S. District Court, and this time the schools won. —Emma Dill