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RICHMOND – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Virginia filed a friend-of-the-court brief today opposing faith-based Liberty University's argument that the health care reform act passed last year would violate its rights by requiring it to purchase insurance that could cover abortion. The ACLU argued that religious beliefs should not dictate access to health care services for others.
Liberty University's argument, put forth in its lawsuit against the government challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA), would effectively require insurance companies to exclude coverage for abortion and other health care services that any faith claims are objectionable. The university lost its initial challenge to the ACA last year and is now appealing the case.
"Liberty University's argument in this case is part of a larger strategy to deny women vital reproductive health care services in their health care coverage," said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "Every woman deserves the peace of mind of knowing that she can make the best decision for her situation without having her medical coverage dictated by someone else's beliefs."
Women's access to abortion care and contraception is at the heart of many battles currently being waged in Washington, D.C. and in state legislatures. The House of Representatives is currently considering measures such as a proposal to eliminate funding for family planning programs and legislation that would take away insurance coverage for abortion from the millions of women who currently have it. Many state legislatures are also banning abortion coverage in the health care exchanges that were created by the federal health care reform legislation.
"While everyone is free to make their own health care decisions based on their own religious beliefs, those beliefs cannot be used to deny services to others," said Daniel Mach, Director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. "One need only consider the impact of compelling insurance companies to refuse to cover other medical procedures forbidden by various faiths, such as blood transfusions and organ transplants, to see the harmful implications of Liberty's argument."
"No one is required to undergo treatment that conflicts with her faith," said Rebecca Glenberg, Legal Director of the ACLU of Virginia. "But abortion is a legal procedure that is already covered by most insurance plans. It is wrong to deny women access for the care they need based on others' objections."
Today's brief was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Lawyers on the case include Amiri and Andrew Beck of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; Mach and Heather L. Weaver of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief; and Glenberg of the ACLU of Virginia.
The ACLU's amicus brief can be found here: www.aclu.org/religion-belief-reproductive-freedom/liberty-university-v-geithner-brief-amici-curiae