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Car dealer refiles complaint over birth control

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- South Charleston car dealer Joe Holland has again asked a federal judge to decide whether he must provide employees with morning-after birth-control pills as the Affordable Care Act mandates.

Similar cases filed around the country are becoming more controversial after split decisions from appeals courts.

Holland filed an amended complaint Friday after withdrawing his preliminary injunction request upon realizing his insurance company already provided the morning-after pills.

 Holland's lawsuit contends that by forcing the dealership to include in its group health insurance coverage "drugs that induce abortion ... and contraceptive counseling," the law deprives the company of their right to practice their Christian religious beliefs.

The Affordable Care Act requires new insurance plans to cover access to FDA-approved contraceptives, including Plan B and "ella," known as morning-after pills.

Holland believes that the morning-after pills and anything that stops the growth of a human embryo after the point of conception is abortion. The amended complaint simply drops the injunction language.

Joe Holland Chevrolet, a family-owned car dealership with more than 150 employees, believed when a preliminary injunction request was filed it could face fines of more than $15,000 a day (a $100 fine per day for each employee) if Holland's request for relief hadn't been granted by July 1.

However, soon after filing the lawsuit, it was discovered the company's insurance provider already covered the drugs and wouldn't stop without a court order.

The Liberty Institute and the Family Policy Council, along with attorneys from Robinson & McElwee, filed the lawsuit on Holland's behalf.

On Friday, in a similar case filed by Conestoga Wood Specialties, the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled that "for-profit, secular corporations cannot engage in religious exercise."

Last month, the opposite happened in Denver, where a federal court ruled there was religious standing to bring the claim. In a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit filed by Hobby Lobby Inc. and Mardel, a Christian bookstore chain, both owned by a family that says the mandate violates their Christian beliefs, the court ruled the businesses were entitled to contest the mandate and would probably prevail.

"We hold that Hobby Lobby and Mardel are entitled to bring claims under [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993], have established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm," the court's opinion states.

"Hobby Lobby and Mardel have drawn a line at providing coverage for drugs or devices they consider to induce abortions, and it is not for us to question whether the line is reasonable," the judges wrote. "The question here is not whether the reasonable observer would consider the plaintiffs complicit in an immoral act, but rather how the plaintiffs themselves measure their degree of complicity."

The differing opinions make it more likely the U.S. Supreme Court will accept the issue to resolve the conflict between the circuits.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.

 


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