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Federal court revives lawmaker's effort to strip his insurance of birth-control coverage

National Institutes of Health

A federal appeals court has resurrected a St. Louis area legislator’s battle against the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that insurance cover birth control.

Last year, a lower court had tossed out state Sen. Paul Wieland’s suit against several federal agencies over the requirement. But the federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in St. Louis, ruled Monday that Wieland’s suit can proceed.

Wieland, a Republican from Jefferson County, contends that he and his wife object to the contraceptive coverage in their state health insurance policy. The couple opposes having the coverage available for their three daughters.

The Wielands’ suit argues that they cannot obtain insurance without the coverage because of the Affordable Care Act. They say the requirement violates their religious views and is unconstitutional.

Wieland’s suit relies on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows employers to drop contraceptive coverage from their insurance policies for religious reasons.

“The government has no business forcing parents to pay for coverage of abortion drugs and devices that violate their religious beliefs," said Wieland in a statement. "This decision is a win for religious liberty."

Wieland and his lawyer have contended that before the ACA took effect, he was able to opt out of birth-control coverage in his state insurance policy.

The Thomas More Society has provided the family's legal counsel. 

“Today’s ruling is a huge victory for religious liberty,” said the society's president, Tom Brejcha.  “Last year, for-profit business owners prevailed against the HHS mandate imposed by Obamacare when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby. Now, individuals and families may also sue to win protection from the Obamacare Mandate, when they have conscientious objections based on sincerely held religious beliefs. As the case has been remanded to the federal district court where our clients’ religious liberty claims will be evaluated in light of the governing Hobby Lobby precedent, we hope to prevail in the end.”

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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