CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- South Charleston auto dealer Joe Holland has dialed back his case against federal government rules requiring employers to include some contraceptives in company health plans after learning his insurance company already covered the drugs.
However, Holland's attorney said they still want a judge to rule the government regulations step on individuals' religious rights.
Holland, backed by attorneys from the Texas-based Liberty Institute and Family Policy Council of West Virginia, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Charleston last month asking the court to exempt him from federal health care provisions that he said violated his constitutional rights.
At issue were rules developed following the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requiring businesses with more than 50 employees to provide a minimum level of health insurance for employees -- including preventive reproductive care.
According to federal rules, that coverage must include U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods and procedures -- including versions of the so-called 'morning-after pill,' which can work up to five days after sex.
Holland said in an affidavit supporting his lawsuit that he believes life begins at conception and it would be "sinful" to allow the coverage the government now requires.
Describing himself as a born-again Christian, he said he felt it was his duty to operate his business according to his religious beliefs.
"One of my sincerely held religious beliefs is that all innocent human life is sacred to its Creator and that it is profoundly immoral to procure, facilitate, fund or endorse any form of abortion," Holland said.
Holland said in his initial lawsuit that his current policy was set to expire June 30, and a new policy, subject to the new federal guidelines, would have to take effect July 1.
Under federal regulations, companies not complying with the coverage guidelines can be subject to a $100-per-day, per-employee fine. The lawsuit says this would expose the company to fines of up to $15,000 each day, or more than $5.4 million a year.
He had asked the court for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction barring the government from imposing the new requirements.
Holland also asked the court to find the federal guidelines violated his First Amendment religious rights and subsequently issue a permanent injunction prohibiting the government from enforcing the mandate against his company.
A hearing had been set for this past Tuesday.
However, in a motion filed Monday, attorneys for Holland said he had since discovered his initial understanding of his current insurance coverage was incorrect.
The filing said Holland learned his current insurance plan already covers the drugs.
"The plaintiffs learned that the insurance plan that they provided to their employees covered the objectionable drugs prior to July 1, 2013," the filing said.
Holland and his attorneys said they apologized for the incorrect statements they made in the initial filing and in subsequent court appearances.
"These statements were made in good faith, based on their understanding of the facts at the time," the filing said.
The motion filed Monday withdrew Holland's motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. Attorneys also asked the Tuesday hearing on the matter be canceled.
While they asked that aspect of the case be dropped, Holland and his attorneys said they would file an amended complaint with the court at a later date. They said they would continue with the portion of the case asking the court to rule the federal regulations violated Holland's religious rights and issue a permanent injunction against their enforcement.
"Our case will continue," Holland attorney Jeremiah Dys said. "All we have done is remove our request for a preliminary injunction."
Dys said Holland is not against all forms of contraception or birth control. He is opposed only to those forms that work after an embryo has been fertilized.
Dys said Holland's objection centers around drugs like Plan B or ella, which work post-conception by preventing an embryo from implanting in the uterus.
He said while Holland believes life begins at fertilization, federal contraceptive guidelines essentially say it beings at implantation. Dys said Holland hopes a court will recognize his belief and require him to cover only those drugs that work before conception.
"The crux of this case now is basically going to be that the government is trying to force their definition of pregnancy onto (Holland), against his convictions," Dys said.
He said insurance companies are selling coverage along federal guidelines at this time. Dys said Holland is continuing to provide coverage to his employees because he believes that is the right thing to do, he just hopes they don't use the drugs he objects to.
"He's kind of in a moral quandary right now because he has to provide the objectionable coverage, because no insurance company will sell him an acceptable product," Dys said.
Dys said if the court grants a permanent injunction, he believes Holland's insurance providers might alter the options available under their coverage plans.
Contact writer Jared Hunt at busin...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.