A Catholic state legislator from Missouri has filed suit with the U.S. District Court in St. Louis asking that his family be exempted from the contraception coverage mandate section of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, state Rep. Paul Wieland (R) said that the provision, which stipulates that insurance companies offer birth control pills and other forms of pregnancy prevention at no cost to policy-holders, violates his First Amendment right to religious freedom.
Wieland filed the suit with his wife Teresa, who is covered under Wieland’s state employee health plan. The couple are not trying to have the portion of the law struck down, but are merely trying to receive a personal exemption, which they hope will embolden other like-minded people to go to court and do the same.
“I see abortion-inducing drugs as intrinsically evil, and I cannot in good conscience preach one thing to my kids and then just go with the flow on our insurance,” said Wieland, who has three daughters. “This is a moral conundrum for me. Do I just cancel the coverage and put my family at risk? I don’t believe in what the government is doing.”
Companies like the Christian-run Hobby Lobby chain of stores have filed suit against the federal government, saying that they should not be forced to provide employees with medicines that they don’t agree with. Supporters of the ACA argue that employers should not have any say over what medications their workers can access since that decision is between the employees and their insurer.
Timothy Belz, an attorney for Wieland, told the Post-Dispatch that as far as he knows, their suit is the first case of its kind to ask for a personal exemption, but that, if successful, “it will be of great value to other families.”
It’s not clear exactly what a personal exemption from the policy would mean, except that should Teresa Wieland or any of the couple’s three daughters need birth control, they will presumably have to pay for it out of pocket.
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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