Mandate victory. Christian radio host James Dobson on Thursday won a temporary injunction that exempts his ministry from the Obamacare requirement to include the “morning-after” pill and other abortifacient contraception in its health insurance. Dobson sued in December, saying the Affordable Care Act mandate to provide the contraception violates the religious beliefs of his Colorado Springs-based ministry, Family Talk. Dobson is best known as the founder of the conservative Focus on the Family ministry. He left that group and launched the non-profit ministry Family Talk in 2010. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering similar challenges from Hobby Lobby and other for-profit employers.
On appeal. A federal appeals court judge in Colorado who will play a pivotal role deciding the question of same-sex marriage appeared Thursday to lean toward overturning Oklahoma’s ban on the unions. U.S. Circuit Judge Jerome Holmes is seen as the swing vote on the three-judge panel that heard the Oklahoma appeal and a similar case from Utah last week. During Thursday’s hearing before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel, Holmes asked Jim Campbell, the attorney representing the defendant in the case, “The state cannot define marriage in any way that would trample constitutional rights, right?” Campbell contended the court must defer to the democratic process if there is a rational reason for the state to choose who can marry and who cannot. “The natural, procreative potential of opposite-sex couples distinguishes that group from same-sex couples,” Campbell said.
Loss of life. A federal judge on Wednesday overturned a North Dakota law that banned abortions when a fetal heartbeat could be detected. U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland said the law was “invalid and unconstitutional” and that it “cannot withstand a constitutional challenge.” A fetal heartbeat may be present as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant. Pro-abortion advocates called North Dakota’s fetal heartbeat law the most restrictive in the country. It was among four anti-abortion bills that Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed into law last year with overwhelming support from the state’s Republican-led Legislature. The state’s only abortion facility, Red River Clinic in Fargo, filed the lawsuit against the heartbeat law last July.
Mountain woes. An avalanche swept down a climbing route on Mount Everest early Friday, killing at least 12 Nepalese guides. The avalanche is the deadliest disaster ever on the world’s highest mountain. The Sherpa guides had gone early in the morning to fix ropes for other climbers when the avalanche hit them at about 6:30 a.m., Nepal Tourism Ministry official Krishna Lamsal said. The avalanche hit an area nicknamed the “popcorn field” for its bulging chunks of ice at an elevation of 21,000 feet. The Sherpa people are one of the main ethnic groups in Nepal’s alpine region, and many make their living as climbing guides on Everest and other Himalayan peaks.