Judge Rules HIV Drugs Don’t Have to Be Covered by Christian Employer

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A federal judge in Texas has ruled that mandatory coverage under the Affordable Care Act for drugs that combat the transmission of HIV violates the religious freedom of a Christian employer.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor issued the ruling last week in a lawsuit led by Jonathan Mitchell, a former Texas solicitor general and a conservative activist, on behalf of Braidwood Management Inc.

The mandate was part of the Affordable Care Act and required employers to provide insurance plans that cover HIV-prevention pills known as PrEP drugs. The plaintiff argued the requirement violated the employer’s religious beliefs.

O’Connor’s ruling is the newest in a series of legal challenges to Obamacare provisions. The judge previously ruled the whole heath care package unconstitutional, but his decision did not stand after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law last year in a 7-to-2 decision.

It was the third time the high court had weighed in on the law.

PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2012 and is currently taken by hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Braidwood Management Inc., a Christian for-profit company, argued against covering the costs of such drugs, saying they “facilitate and encourage homosexual behavior and sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman.”

The lawsuit also claimed the mandate encouraged “homosexual behavior, prostitution, sexual promiscuity, and intravenous drug use.”

“This decision is deeply disappointing and could cripple HIV prevention efforts, particularly among communities of color and communities of poverty,” the the National Minority AIDS Council said in a statement.

Mitchell, who led the lawsuit, is also the architect behind Texas’ restrictive six-week abortion ban that allows private citizens to sue providers and recipients of the medical procedure who violate the ban.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services did not say if it planned to appeal the newest ruling. The Biden administration said it is reviewing the Texas decision.

 

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