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On losing streak in courts, Obama admin goes after nuns’ TV network with abortion drugs mandate

EWTN says to comply with the HHS abortion mandate would be a clear violation of its deeply held religious convictions.
Tue Feb 10, 2015 - 1:23 pm EST

February 10, 2015 (Bound4Life.com) -- In the latest federal court case impacting abortion policy, last Wednesday the voice of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) was finally heard as they presented oral arguments against the Obama Administration at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Following Kathleen Sebelius’ resignation, Sylvia Mathews Burwell became Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) in June 2014 SOURCE: Juan Herrera / Flickr

The face of the Obamacare juggernaut, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, is set on enforcing the highly-contested contraceptive services provision, which mandates coverage of abortion-inducing drugs — despite the federal government racking up a series of recent Supreme Court losses on this issue.

Attorney Daniel Blomberg of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, representing EWTN in court, notes, “They lost three times at the U.S. Supreme Court regarding this issue of the abortifacient mandate.”  

“They lost in the Little Sisters of the Poor case at the beginning of the year. Last year, they lost in the Hobby Lobby case, and they lost again in the Wheaton College case,” said Blomberg.

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The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta heard EWTN’s case SOURCE: Kevin / Flickr
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The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta heard EWTN’s case

In EWTN v. Burwell, heard last Wednesday, the Catholic media standard-bearer challenges a key provision in the Affordable Care Act — a.k.a. “Obamacare”— which requires even Catholic-run EWTN to cover the cost of abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization procedures in employer-sponsored health care plans… or face massive government fines.

While religious organizations are supposedly “exempt” from the mandate, neither EWTN nor the Little Sisters of the Poor are deemed “religious enough” for the exemption.

The Little Sisters of the Poor await a decision from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, one of the significant federal cases pro-life advocates are watching closely.

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Cloistered nun Mother Angelica founded Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) in 1981, with an unwavering mission to serve the Catholic Church and broadcast its teachings.

Not formally affiliated with any diocese, the nonprofit EWTN has become the world’s largest religious media network. To comply with the HHS abortion-related mandate would be a clear violation of deeply held religious convictions — that every life, including of a pre-born baby developing in the womb, has precious value and is worthy of legal protection. 

As EWTN challenges the Obama Administration’s mandate, an important question emerges: will these three judges have a sympathetic ear on the issues of life and religious liberty?

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Mother Angelica founded the Eternal Word Television Network in 1981 SOURCE: EWTN

In a new interview, EWTN General Counsel John Manos indicates that two of the three 11th Circuit judges seemed receptive to their claims regarding free exercise of religious beliefs.

The two senior judges, Robert Lanier Anderson and Gerald Tjoflat, were appointed to serve federal courts decades ago and are considered moderate by many observers. Judge Jill Pryor is the newest addition to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, appointed by President Obama in 2014.

Manos said there is one question often ignored by media reporting on these cases: “Where do individuals who don’t want to pay for this go to get their health insurance?” Under current policy, even the government’s eighth attempt at religious accommodation triggers insurance provisions for abortion-related services.

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Citizens in Detroit protest against the HHS Mandate SOURCE: SJA / Flickr

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With over 140 religious nonprofit groups seeking relief from the HHS abortion-related mandate, knowing when the U.S. Supreme Court will weigh in becomes only a matter of time and sequence.

“Whether it’s this term or next term, one of these cases is going to get to the Supreme Court,” said Michael Carvin of Jones Day, one of the legal firms involved in these cases. “Because the stakes are very important.” Clearly these challenges to the HHS mandate are pivotal in the fight to protect religious liberties in America.

A recent video tells the story of Eternal Word Television Network, revealing why it is vital for this faith-based nonprofit to be able to practice what it preaches:

Marisa Lengor Kwaning is a writer, editor and health policy analyst who resides in Washington, D.C. She has worked in public health, disaster management, as well as foreign and domestic health policy. She earned a Masters degree in Public Policy from George Mason University and currently consults at Final Draft:Writing Services. This article is reprinted with permission from Bound4Life.


  abortion, becket fund, catholic, ewtn, hhs mandate, obama administration, obamacare, religious freedom, sylvia mathews burwell

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