The Dr. James Dobson Family Institute and Dobson’s “Family Talk” radio show won’t be required to provide abortion-related drugs and services under the Affordable Care Act because of the organization’s religious beliefs, a federal judge in Denver ruled.
U.S. District Judge Robert E. Blackburn granted the El Paso County-based nonprofit a permanent injunction on the mandate, citing the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The injunction applies to “devices, procedures, or related education and counseling that may destroy human life after fertilization of the egg of a mother either before or after the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus of its mother.”
Blackburn wrote in his order, “The plaintiffs face potential irreparable harm in the form of violation of their rights under RFRA unless an injunction is issued.
“The threatened injury to the plaintiffs outweighs the harm the injunction may cause the opposing parties. Relevantly, the defendants have not identified or cited any such harm.”
Blackburn’s order can be read by clicking here.
“Because of this ruling, every religious institution — not just ours — has greater legal standing,” Dobson said in an emailed comment.
Dobson has been fighting the Obamacare mandate for five years. The Trump administration, however, has not enforced the requirement and has proposed new rules on abortion-and contraception-related coverage.
“If the government can fine religious ministries out of existence because they want to operate consistently with their faith, there’s no limit to what other freedoms it can take away,” L. Martin Nussbaum of Nussbaum Speir, the lead attorney in the case, said in a statement.
“We are pleased with the court’s order and equally pleased that this ministry will no longer have to worry about immense government fines for choosing to live out the very faith it believes in and talks about on the air.”
Dobson could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Greg Baylor, a lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom, said Judge Blackburn’s decision sets a precedent and adds to a growing body of decisions in other courts that applying the Obamacare mandates on objecting organizations violates the law.
For example, U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer issued a similar ruling in December permanently blocking the mandates from being applied to three religious colleges and three Christian organizations including Alliance Defending Freedom.
Baylor said the next step in the case will be for the court to enter a final judgment.
“That should bring the case to a close, given that the Department of Justice does not intend to appeal the ruling to the 10th Circuit,” Baylor wrote in an email.
The court initially blocked enforcement of the mandate for Dobson’s faith-based organization in 2014.
Contact Joey Bunch at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @joeybunch.