There have been several law suits brought against ObamaCare since its passage, and this January a federal district judge in Florida became the first to rule the healthcare law unconstitutional. Judge Roger Vinson of the U.S. District Court of Pensacola ruled that ObamaCare must be declared unconstitutional because of the individual mandate requiring all Americans to purchase healthcare. While this decision is a very important victory for the Pro-Life movement there is still much legislative work to be done.
Judge Vinson’s decision centers around the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and its relation to the individual mandate within the healthcare law. The individual mandate requires that all Americans either purchase health insurance or face a fine from the IRS for failure to maintain coverage. In his ruling Judge Vinson wrote, “It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause.”
Judge Vinson is the second federal judge to rule against the individual mandate. Last December, Judge Henry Hudson in Virginia also declared the individual mandate unconstitutional. The difference is that Judge Vinson is the first to declare all of the healthcare law unconstitutional due to the fact that the individual mandate is at the center of the act. The individual mandate is so intertwined with the healthcare law that it can’t be removed without changing the intent of the whole act. Judge Vinson writes, “Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void.”
Although this is a major victory for Pro-Lifers, two important factors must be kept in mind. One is that this is the first step of a long legal journey to repeal ObamaCare. Any final decision about the constitutionality of ObamaCare will eventually be decided before the Supreme Court. Although Judges Vinson and Hudson have found the individual mandate unconstitutional, two other federal district judges have thrown out cases against ObamaCare because they lacked constitutional merit. The Supreme Court could very easily rule either way: in favor of the healthcare act or find the individual mandate is unconstitutional.
The second factor is that even if the individual mandate is ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, there are several provisions in the act that create medical rationing that will remain intact. For example as reported by the National Right to Life Committee:
“The law has a maze of provisions that empower the federal Department Health and Human Services (HHS), based on recommendations by the Independent Payment Advisory Board, to limit what health care providers can do to save the lives of your family members. Another provision gives HHS bureaucrats authority to limit or eliminate the one option that has existed in Medicare under which seniors who chose to do so may add their own money to the government contribution so as to obtain health insurance plans that allow them better access to providers and life-saving medical treatments.”
The NRLC also wrote,
“Yet another portion of the law will limit the right of Americans of all ages to use your own money to save your family members' lives through regulations placed upon insurers who want to participate in the state-based insurance exchanges–regulations that will impact you whether you obtain your health insurance inside or outside an exchange. Finally, the law promotes “patient decision aids” through the “Shared Decisionmaking” program that in practice will attempt to persuade patients against seeking costly life-saving treatment.”
(Full documentation of these provisions is available here: http://www.nrlc.org/healthcarerationing/LifeatRiskLongform.pdf)
The Pro-Life movement needs to remain dedicated to fighting ObamaCare, and realize that removing the individual mandate does not go far enough and does not protect against the loss of life due to medical rationing. We must repeal ObamaCare in its entirety. While the decision from Judge Vinson is an important step in the right direction, it is just the first step in a very difficult journey.
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