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Supreme Court Takes Up Obamacare Abortion/Contraceptive Mandate

  • Michael Foust Crosswalk Headlines Contributor
  • Published Jan 20, 2020
Supreme Court Takes Up Obamacare Abortion/Contraceptive Mandate

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed once again to take up the Obama-era abortion/contraceptive mandate in a case that will determine if a Trump administration rule granting religious exceptions to the mandate was proper.

Lower courts ruled against the Trump administration, and the administration appealed to the high court. 

At issue are rules finalized by the Trump Department of Health and Human Services in 2018 that exempted employers “who have a religious or moral objection” to contraceptives and certain abortion-inducing drugs from being forced to cover them within Obamacare. The new rules did not apply to publicly traded companies.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, required the coverage of “preventive care,” which Obama’s HHS interpreted as covering any Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive and sterilization procedure – including those such as Plan B, which can work after fertilization, and “ella,” which can work after implantation. Pro-life groups consider the latter two drugs abortifacients. 

Pennsylvania and California filed suit in separate circuits against the Trump rules in federal court and won. The Supreme Court will hear appeals from the Pennsylvania case, Trump v. Pennsylvania, and from a separate case, Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania. The two cases will be consolidated. 

The Little Sisters of the Poor, an institute of Catholic nuns who serve the elderly poor, previously won in a 2016 Supreme Court decision, when the justices unanimously voided lower court rulings and returned the cases to those circuits. The Supreme Court justices, though, did not rule on the merits of the case.

The Little Sisters of the Poor believed they had won an exemption when the Trump administration issued its new rules. But Pennsylvania then filed suit. 

“It is disappointing to think that as we enter a new decade we must still defend our ministry in court,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “We are grateful the Supreme Court has decided to weigh in, and hopeful that the Justices will reinforce their previous decision and allow us to focus on our lifelong work of serving the elderly poor once and for all.”

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is representing the Little Sisters. 

“Pennsylvania needs to give it a rest,” said Mark Rienzi, president of Becket. “Why is Pennsylvania still trying to fight tired and unnecessary culture wars that were settled years ago? There are plenty of ways to provide people with contraceptives without forcing Catholic nuns to participate. It’s too bad that the Supreme Court is being forced by Pennsylvania to deal with this issue again, but at least the Court can now bring this litigation to a permanent end.”


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Photo courtesy: Pixabay

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.