COLUMBUS — A lawsuit challenging part of the federal health care overhaul on behalf of two Catholic business owners in Ohio argues a requirement for contraception coverage contradicts their religious beliefs and violates their constitutional rights.
The American Center for Law and Justice, an anti-abortion legal group, sued the federal Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury departments and their leaders Thursday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Francis Gilardi Jr. and Philip Gilardi. The brothers run produce processing and transportation businesses in the western Ohio city of Sidney and have about 400 employees between their companies, Freshway Foods and Freshway Logistics.
The brothers have excluded contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs from their company health insurance for the past decade but would be required to provide that coverage starting this spring or face crippling fines and penalties — totaling more than $14 million annually — under the health care rule, the ACLJ said.
“The government is requiring them to enter into a contract and to pay for things that they find morally objectionable, and they just want to be able to continue what they’ve been doing,” ACLJ senior counsel Edward White said Friday.
Officials in President Barack Obama’s administration have said their goal is giving women access to important care, not limiting religious freedom. The Department of Justice said Friday it had no comment on the Gilardis’ case.
The brothers are seeking a ruling that the mandate is unconstitutional and an injunction blocking the mandate from applying to them.
The ACLJ said the case is the fourth similar challenge it has filed to the health care law, in addition to filing support for others’ challenges, in the hope that one of the cases will eventually lead to a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the issue.
In one challenge, Ohio’s attorney general was among seven who filed a lawsuit seeking to block the contraception coverage requirement on the argument that it violated the rights of employers who object to the use of contraceptives. A federal judge dismissed that case last year, saying they didn’t have standing to file it and noting that Obama’s administration agreed to work with religious groups to try to address concerns.