Christian university settles lawsuit against US government over Obama abortion mandate

A Christian university in Tennessee has settled its lawsuit against the U.S. government over the Obama administration's mandate that it be required to include access to abortion-causing drugs in its employee's health plans.

(REUTERS / Ivan Alvarado)Boxes of the contraceptive Postinor-2, known as "morning-after pill", in a file photo.

The U.S. government had agreed that the abortion mandate violated Union University's religious freedom and that it placed a "substantial burden" on the institution's free exercise of religion. The settlement drew praise from the university's president, who maintained that their Christian belief dictates that life begins at conception, the Baptist Press relayed.

"We believe, based on the Bible, that life begins at conception," said Union University president Samuel W. Oliver. "We went to court to defend religious liberty, the right to believe and to live according to those beliefs, and we are glad that religious liberty prevailed."

In addition, Oliver pointed out that their rights of conscience were protected by the U.S. Constitution. He expressed hope that their university would continue to stand for these rights.

The settlement came in the wake of the Trump administration's Oct. 6 order to exempt certain entities from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' contraception mandate because of their religious beliefs. Under the settlement, Union University's employee health plans are permanently exempt from the said directive.

After the Trump administration's move against the Obama-era mandate, Massachusetts stepped up to become the first state to act in response to the new order. Under a new law, churches and church-controlled groups within the state were the only ones exempted from the mandate, but all other employers who meet the requirements for exemption under federal standards still have to provide contraception via employee health plans, Vox reported.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey told the Republican newspaper that the Trump administration's anti-abortion order appears to take "women backwards." She also expressed delight in the state's move to take a stand against it.