Peter J. Smith

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D.C. Appeals Court fast-tracks ObamaCare appeal

Peter J. Smith

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 22, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A federal appeals court in the nation’s capital has decided to expedite a legal review of a judge’s ruling that found the national health care reform law constitutional.

The reform, signed into law by President Obama last year, has been criticized by a number of pro-life groups for opening the door to federal funding of abortion.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has granted a motion from the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) to expedite its appeal of its legal challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

Just last month, District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled against the ACLJ in favor of the federal government, saying that Congress’s ability to regulate economic activity under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution also included mental choices not to engage in economic activity.

The ACLJ was arguing that the U.S. Constitution does not permit Congress to compel an individual to engage in economic activity, such as purchasing health insurance, and violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. Part of PPACA includes an individual mandate to purchase health insurance by 2014 or pay a financial penalty.

ACLJ is representing five plaintiff individuals, who either refuse to use modern medicine because of religious beliefs, or believe insurance will not pay for their holistic medicinal treatments.

“Congress had a rational basis for its conclusion that the aggregate of individual decisions not to purchase health insurance substantially affects the national health insurance market,” Kessler wrote in her 64-page February 22 ruling. “Consequently, Congress was acting within the bounds of its Commerce Clause power.”

The judge also said it was “pure semantics to argue that an individual who makes a choice to forgo health insurance is not ‘acting,’ especially given the serious economic and health-related consequences to every individual of that choice. Making a choice is an affirmative action, whether one decides to do something or not do something. They are two sides of the same coin. To pretend otherwise is to ignore reality.”

However, opponents of the health-care law contend that Kessler’s interpretation of the Commerce Clause is so expansive, it virtually renders Congress limitless in its power to regulate the lives of American citizens.

Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ, said the decision of the appeals court to begin hearing the case by May showed the court “clearly understands that this issue is of vital concern and deserves to be expedited.”

“By putting our appeal on the fast-track, the court is sending a strong signal that time is of the essence in determining the constitutionality of this law.  We’re very encouraged that our appeal will move forward quickly ultimately headed for the Supreme Court.  And, we’re confident our position will prevail,” he said.

Opening briefs for both sides are due first in May. Oral arguments before a three-judge appeals panel will be conducted in September.

The ACLJ has other amicus briefs filed in support of both the lawsuit filed by Virginia and the Florida-led lawsuit filed by 26 states against the federal government over the constitutionality of PPACA.

Three judges including Kessler have ruled in favor of the Obama administration on the constitutionality of PPACA. The federal judges in Virginia and Florida have ruled in favor of those states, saying the individual mandate is an unconstitutional overreach of Congressional power.

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