It was years of fighting in court, but the Little Sisters of the Poor defeated Barack Obama’s demand that they fund birth control and abortion-causing drugs for employees of their work to care for the poorest of the poor.
But now a number of states are imposing the same demand, and two judges have ruled the Catholic nuns must continue to fight for their right not to be ordered to violate their faith.
Mark Rienzi is president of Becket, which took the nuns’ case against the Obamacare mandate to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. His organization now is defending the nuns on the same issue, as Pennsylvania and a handful of states, led by California, try to force them to provide the drugs.
“Government bureaucrats should not be allowed to threaten the rights of the Little Sisters of the Poor to serve according to their Catholic beliefs. Now the nuns are forced to keep fighting this unnecessary lawsuit to protect their ability to focus on caring for the poor,” Rienzi said. “We are confident these decisions will be overturned.”
His organization said judges in State of California v. HHS and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Trump refused to protect the nuns’ religious rights.
“Moments ago,” the organization said Monday, “the Pennsylvania court ruled that Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro can continue his challenge to the HHS religious exemption. This follows California’s ruling late yesterday, which allows Attorney General Xavier Becerra to continue his challenge to the HHS religious exemption, threatening the Little Sisters’ ministry of caring for the elderly poor.”
After the Supreme Court victory, and after Barack Obama left office, the Trump administration implemented new rules that provided exemptions for religious groups and individuals who oppose killing the unborn.
The lawsuits contend the states have the power to force the nuns to cover the abortion-causing drugs in their health plans.
A judge suspended the temporary rule change, and the rulings were rushed because the permanent rule was to take effect Monday.
“We never wanted this fight, and we regret that after a long legal battle it is still not over,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “We pray that we can once again devote our lives to our ministry of serving the elderly poor as we have for over 175 years without being forced to violate our faith.”
Becket noted that the federal government told the Supreme Court it had other ways to ensure contraceptives are covered, without using the nuns.
“Following the 2016 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court and an Executive Order, HHS issued a new rule that finally protected the Little Sisters and other religious non-profits. The government had long exempted big businesses and even its own health care plans, yet California never sued the Obama administration for creating the exemptions that reach tens of millions more women than the Little Sisters’ exemption,” Becket said.
The legal team immediately appealed the California decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and a similar move was expected in Pennsylvania.
When the California decision was announced on Sunday, the state’s pro-abortion attorney general, Xavier Becerra, claimed that it was a victory because employers have no business trampling on women’s health care decisions.
He didn’t address the fact that employers were merely contesting the government’s requirement that they pay for it.
The judge, Haywood Gilliam Jr., said the women have an “entitlement” to having their abortion coverage paid for.
The states’ have argued that if women are not given free contraceptives, they may have children that “impose financial costs on the state.”