Remember the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Denver-based order of Catholic nuns who fought a years-long battle against the Obama administration over rules that forced them to fund abortion and contraception for employees?
The U.S. Supreme Court decided 8-0 in the nuns’ favor in 2016, sending the case back to lower courts for a resolution.
The case, Zubik v. Burwell, erupted when pro-abortion bureaucrats put in place by Obama demanded religious employers pay for optional services that terminate the life of an unborn child.
Obama claimed the government can force religious organizations to provide contraception coverage in their health plans even if the coverage violates sincerely held beliefs. But in a hugely embarrassing ruling for Obama, the Supreme Court ruled that the case had to be returned to the lower courts, and Daniel Blomberg, an attorney with the Becket Fund, explained it put the Little Sisters “in a place that we can get to a solution that frankly isn’t a win-loss; it’s a win-win.”
He said at the time the Supreme Court protected the Little Sisters “from having to violate their religious beliefs or pay massive fines.”
Now, however, Becket lawyers representing the Little Sisters are back in court, once again defending the nuns from a demand that they pay for abortion services.
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But this time the demands are coming from individual states. So far, cases have been filed by California and Pennsylvania.
Last month, the federal Health and Human Services agency issued a new rule protecting religious nonprofits like the Little Sisters, who dedicate their lives to caring for the elderly poor, from providing services such as the week-after pill, which violates their religious beliefs.
That means the long and complicated federal case likely will end soon.
But shortly after the new rule was issued, California and Pennsylvania sued to take away the religious exemption the Little Sisters just won.
The nuns, Becket said, are “asking the court to ensure that they can continue their vital ministry of caring for the elderly poor without violating their faith.”
Beckett said that, sadly, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra “think attacking nuns is a way to score political points.”
“These men may think their campaign donors want them to sue nuns, but our guess is most taxpayers disagree,” said Mark Rienzi, Becket’s senior counsel. “No one needs nuns in order to get contraceptives, and no one needs these guys reigniting the last administration’s divisive and unnecessary culture war.”
Becket said California admits that many of its own programs provide contraceptives to women who want them.
“California never filed suit over the much larger secular exemptions created by the Obama administration for big corporations – exemptions that applied to tens of millions more people than the religious exemption,” Becket argued. “California’s own mandate does not even apply to the Little Sisters of the Poor. And California has not identified a single actual person who had contraceptive coverage but will lose it because of this new rule.”
Despite all this, Becket said, California is asking a judge to find that the Little Sisters should be forced to comply with the federal mandate, not a state mandate, or pay tens of millions of dollars of government fines.
Pennsylvania is arguing the same points.
When the Trump administration changed Obama’s rules, it was because it wanted “to provide conscience protections for individuals and entities with sincerely held religious beliefs … and to minimize burdens in our regulation of the health insurance market.”
Becket Attorney Daniel Blomberg told WND and Radio America when the Supreme Court ruling was released that the Supreme Court doesn’t want groups such as the Little Sisters to be in the government’s cross-hairs, as they were under the Obama administration.
“Several lower court decisions had gone the wrong way, and they were forcing the Little Sisters to choose between their faith and fines, and they were massive, crushing fines,” he said at the time. “The Supreme Court today said, ‘No, we’re not going to do that. We’re going to send this back down to get reconsidered because the government has admitted it has other ways of accomplishing its mission without forcing the sisters to violate their beliefs.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Daniel Blomberg:
When Trump moved to remove Obama’s abortion-funding requirement, public-interest groups praised him.
“This interim rule, if issued as written, is an important step in acknowledging the importance of conscience rights for all Americans,” the Susan B. Anthony List organization said in a statement then.
“The taking of human life is the antithesis of health care. No one, including religious orders like the Little Sisters of the Poor, or groups like Susan B. Anthony List should be forced to be complicit in the provision of abortion inducing drugs and devices.”