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Supreme Court Queries DOJ About Potentially Reviving Health Reform Law Challenge, Rejects Antiabortion Group's Appeal

Supreme Court Queries DOJ About Potentially Reviving Health Reform Law Challenge, Rejects Antiabortion Group's Appeal

October 2, 2012 — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday indicated that it is considering whether it should agree to hear a lawsuit brought by Liberty University challenging the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) individual mandate, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports. In June, the justices declined to hear an appeal in the case after they ruled to uphold the ACA as a whole.

The conservative Christian university argues that it should have another chance to challenge the law because it opposes the individual mandate on different grounds than the case that ended up before the court. Liberty claims the law violates its religious freedom by requiring the purchase of health coverage that it says indirectly contributes to the funding of abortion.

Although the Supreme Court rarely grants re-hearings, Liberty said it has new arguments to present and that the high court should order a lower court to reconsider the case.

Prior to the court's ruling on the ACA, a lower court said it could not rule Liberty's case because the Anti-Injunction Act prevents suits over a tax that has yet to be levied.

However, the Supreme Court said in its decision on the ACA that the Anti-Injunction Act did not apply to the individual mandate, which Liberty says shows that the lower court was wrong for declining its case (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/1).

Court Asks Justice Department To Respond

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Department of Justice to respond within 30 days to Liberty's request (Cheney, Politico, 10/1). Court observers said that the move might be an indication that there is some interest among the justices to hear the case.

According to Politico, if the justices grant Liberty's request, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could take up the case by as early as next year and position the case for a hearing before the Supreme Court in the future (Haberkorn/Cheney, Politico, 10/1).

Court Rejects Request From Neb. Antiabortion-Rights Group

In related news, the Supreme Court on Monday rejected Nebraskans United for Life's request to review a lower court's decision involving a state law that requires health screenings for women seeking abortion care, the AP/Washington Post reports.

Federal courts blocked the 2010 law, and the state attorney general declined to continue defending the measure.

Courts subsequently blocked NUL from intervening to defend the law. The group asked the Supreme Court to reconsider a lower court's refusal to hear its appeal (AP/Washington Post, 10/1).