Agencies enjoined from enforcing contraceptive mandate

Because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraception mandate violates the religious freedom of a closely-held for-profit corporation, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado entered a permanent injunction against three federal agencies and their Secretaries to ensure that the mandate is never enforced against the corporation (Newland v. Burwell, March 16, 2015, Kane, J.).

Background

The for-profit corporation Hercules Industries, Inc., and its five controlling shareholders and officers (the Newlands), “are practicing and believing Catholic Christians” who believe that contraception in any form is an “intrinsic evil.” In challenging the contraceptive mandate, the Newlands cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA),and argued that “it would be immoral and sinful for them to intentionally participate in, pay for, facilitate, or otherwise support” the use of contraceptives. The district court in Colorado granted a preliminary injunction in favor of the Newlands, without a consideration of whether the Newlands were likely to succeed on their RFRA claims. The 10th Circuit did not reach the merits of the RFRA claim, either, but, in affirming the preliminary injunction, stated that its decision in Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius (aff’d Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., U.S., June 30, 2014) “resolves the likelihood of success factor in [the Newlands’] favor.”

Permanent injunction

On remand to the district court following the 10th Circuit’s affirmation, the parties agreed that a permanent injunction should be entered in favor of the Newlands. The court therefore entered judgment in favor of the Newlands. The court further entered a permanent injunction against HHS, the Department of Labor, and the Department of the Treasury, along with their employees, agents, and successors in office. The Agencies and their Secretaries are permanently enjoined from enforcing any regulation promulgated or amended pursuant to the contraceptive mandate against Hercules; from applying any related penalties, fines, or assessments for noncompliance; and from taking any other actions based on noncompliance with the mandate.

Lastly, the court ordered that if the federal agencies seek relief or modification of the injunction, they must first show that a significant change in factual conditions or in law renders continued enforcement of the injunction detrimental to the public interest.