The Catholic Voices Blog
Momentum against the HHS mandate
At Politico, Kathryn Smith notes that opponents of the HHS mandate are "certainly piling up lawsuits. But whether that’s real momentum — or just a growing stack of legal briefs — remains to be seen."
It's important to put that stack of legal briefs in context. As Smith points out, over 100 plaintiffs have filed some 35 lawsuits throughout the country. Think about the scale of that effort: in court after court across the nation, plaintiffs of all kinds -- from presitigious universities to local parish elementary schools; from large private employers to small social service agencies -- have filed lawsuits challenging the mandate. This isn't merely a stack of briefs; it's a major civil rights initiative.
Those legal efforts demonstrate momentum for mandate opponents, but what's in the briefs provides even more evidence. Last Friday 13 states as well as representatives of a broad range of religious groups and public policy organizations, the Women's Speak for Themselves initiative (of which I'm a founder), and leading Catholic institutions filed amicus briefs in the Belmont Abbey and Wheaton College mandate case pending in the DC Circuit. The brief filed by Catholic Charities of Washington DC and other Catholic institutions
...details the severe burdens inflicted by the unconstitutional command that they insure free contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. These great institutions—which educate, feed, clothe, and serve millions—must plan now for the mandate’s millions of dollars in fines, crippling their budgeting, planning and hiring.
As the on-the-ground burdens imposed by the mandate start to become clearer, opposition to it can only grow. Beyond these legal efforts, rallies for religious liberty are taking place across the country on October 20th in a grass-roots movement to draw attention to these issues. In other words, momentum is building, both inside and outside the courtroom.
Smith points out that the back-and-forth about the HHS mandate in the vice-presidential debate drew renewed coverage of the issue. That attention is likely to increase with this week's Al Smith Dinner, in which President Obama and Governor Romney will appear on stage with Cardinal Dolan at a widely-covered event that raises money for the types of groups that will be most affected by the mandate's steep fines. The dinner will take place exactly one week after the debate in which Vice President Biden wrongly said that religious institutions wouldn't have to pay for, refer, or act as a vehicle for contraception, a claim forcefully rejected by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, headed by none other than Cardinal Dolan.
A broad civil rights initiative; growing clarification of the on-the-ground impact of the mandate; nationwide grassroots rallies; and now Cardinal Dolan on stage with President Obama and Governor Romney. That looks like momentum to me.