Supreme Court Rules Little Sisters of the Poor Exempt from Obamacare Contraceptive Mandate

Little Sisters of the Poor
Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday the Little Sisters of the Poor Catholic religious order is exempt from Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate.

In a 7-2 decision in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, the Court ended the long legal struggle the nuns, who care for the elderly poor and sick, have endured. The decision also upheld the Trump administration’s conscience protections rule.

“The Little Sisters’ long struggle for survival is one evidence of the growing hostility to religion in America,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins as he reacted to the ruling. “It should be common sense to allow a religious group to conduct themselves according to their religious convictions, and yet government agents have tried to punish them with obtuse fines for doing just that.”

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the decision the Little Sisters have “like many other religious objectors who have participated in the litigation and rulemakings leading up to today’s decision— have had to fight for the ability to continue in their noble work without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

“After two decisions from this Court and multiple failed regulatory attempts, the Federal Government has arrived at a solution that exempts the Little Sisters from the source of their complicity-based concerns—the administratively imposed contraceptive mandate,” Thomas added.

The Sisters returned to the Supreme Court recently in May after Pennsylvania, California, and New Jersey sued to block the Trump administration’s conscience protections rule issued in 2017. The new rule would protect the nuns and other religious non-profits from being coerced by the federal government to provide contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, and other services in their healthcare plans that violate their faith beliefs.

The Trump administration’s rule provided full protection for Americans with religious beliefs and moral convictions and acknowledged that the contraceptive mandate involves serious issues of moral concern, including those involving human life.

But, U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone in Pennsylvania, an Obama appointee, blocked the rule. Pennsylvania and New Jersey subsequently sued the federal government to remove the Little Sisters’ conscience protections.

The Sisters’ case went before the Supreme Court the first time in May 2016, in the wake of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, when the Court unanimously decided to send the nuns’ case back to the lower courts.

Former Obama-era Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius – an abortion activist – and bureaucrats in her department inserted the mandate into Obamacare. Following objections by many religious employers to the requirements of the mandate, the Obama administration devised “accommodations” that only gave the appearance the religious groups would not be footing the bill for the federal government’s mandate of the offensive contraceptive drugs and sterilization procedures. In reality, the faith groups were being asked to passively approve of the contraceptives.

The abortion industry, including Planned Parenthood, claims women should obtain free birth control and that the Trump administration is forcing women to pay for their own birth control when they choose to have sex.

The Obama administration itself, however, actually exempted from its own rule at least 25 million Americans – including large corporations such as Chevron, Exxon, Visa, and Pepsi Bottling, as well as the U.S. military and large cities like New York City – through various exemption allowances, with little pushback from the left.

“We are glad that the Constitution protects the Little Sisters and others willing to stand up for their beliefs in the face of intense, longstanding opposition,” Perkins said.

“Today is a major victory for President Trump, who has courageously fought to protect the Little Sisters of the Poor from the Obama-Biden HHS abortifacient mandate,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “The Sisters, along with other religious and moral objectors who conscientiously object to abortion, should never be forced to go against their consciences to provide abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans.”

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