MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Legal Newsline) - Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange on Thursday filed a motion to intervene in a federal lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama's contraception coverage mandate.
The mandate was imposed under the controversial health care law signed by Obama in 2010.
"The health care law signed by President Obama two years ago is taking effect now, and the consequences are dire. The law forces the states to be used as instruments in carrying out the federal government's unconstitutional policies," Strange said in a statement.
"Under the law, states have no discretion. States instead must immediately begin regulating their insurance markets and enforcing federal provisions such as the contraception mandate, without regard to their citizens' religious beliefs or conscientious objections."
The contraception mandate requires all employers and insurance companies -- including those with religious and conscience-based objections -- to provide coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptive methods and sterilization procedures, including the "morning-after pill" and the "week-after pill."
The only religious exemption is a narrow one that applies primarily to churches and other houses of worship. Religious non-profits, schools, universities and other enterprises -- including those who offer critical social services to the needy -- do not qualify for the exemption.
Alabama is seeking to join a lawsuit filed by Eternal Word Television Network Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in February.
Strange argues in his nine-page filing that the mandate violates federal law, including provisions of the health care law that state that qualified health plans should not be required to provide coverage for abortion services, and would require state officials to regulate insurance in violation of Alabama law.
"The freedom of religion, and to believe as one sees fit, is our 'first freedom' under the United States Constitution. The people of Alabama have recognized the importance of this freedom and have enshrined it in their Constitution as well. Alabama law does not allow anyone to be forced to offer a product that is against his or her religious beliefs or conscience," he said.
Attorneys general in Michigan, Florida, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas have already filed lawsuits over the contraception mandate.
Alabama's decision to intervene in the federal lawsuit comes as the U.S. Supreme Court readies to hear the broader issue of whether the federal government can force individual citizens to buy insurance coverage.
Strange, along with 25 other attorneys general, filed a separate challenge to the law in 2010.
The nation's high court, which agreed in November to hear the case, will hear oral arguments on the four issues involved in the challenge to the law over three days, starting Monday. It could make a ruling in June.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.