Obama Admin Exempts 100 Million from HHS Contraception Mandate — but Not Little Sisters of the Poor

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley
AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

Approximately 100 million Americans do not have health insurance plans covered by Obamacare’s HHS contraception mandate because the Obama administration has exempted plans for big corporations, large cities, and the U.S. military.

The same administration, however, insists that a group of Catholic nuns who care for the elderly poor provide its employees free contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization procedures–all of which are against its faith–or be forced to pay $70 million in punitive fines.

According to a press release by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty–which represents the Little Sisters of the Poor–the Obama administration has exempted corporations such as Chevron, Exxon, Visa, and Pepsi Bottling from the HHS mandate, as well as large cities like New York City. The Little Sisters have now asked the U.S. Supreme Court to protect them from the mandate.

The Obama administration claims that, through an “accommodation,” it has offered to reimburse the costs of the services it requires the Little Sisters to provide–so they should have no moral objection to complying with the mandate. The Little Sisters, however, say their legal challenge is not about money, but conscience and the freedom not to offer services in their healthcare plan that conflict with their beliefs. They also say they should not have to comply with the HHS mandate when those services could be provided more effectively through the government’s healthcare exchanges.

The Becket Fund states that the Obama administration’s arguments to the Supreme Court admits that women not covered by the mandate can still obtain free birth control through a family member’s health plan or through the Obamacare exchanges. But it also simultaneously argues that exempting the Little Sisters would compromise the government’s goal of offering universal free access to birth control and abortion-inducing drugs.

The Becket Fund states:

Using the healthcare exchanges, which the government has hailed as an ‘easy and fast’ healthcare option for millions of Americans, would protect both the Little Sisters of the Poor’s religious freedom and the government’s goal to provide free access to these services to women who want them.

More than 40 friend-of-the-court briefs have been filed at the Supreme Court on behalf of the Little Sisters. The high court will hear their case on March 23.

Last September, in a highly unusual move, five federal judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit issued an opinion criticizing their court panel’s refusal to change its decision to force the Little Sisters into providing free birth control to employees.

“The opinion of the panel majority is clearly and gravely wrong–on an issue that has little to do with contraception and a great deal to do with religious liberty,” the opinion reads. “When a law demands that a person do something the person considers sinful, and the penalty for refusal is a large financial penalty, then the law imposes a substantial burden on that person’s free exercise of religion.”

The judges added, “[I]t is not the job of the judiciary to tell people what their religious beliefs are.”


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