Though the Little Sisters of the Poor won a victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, their battle with abortion activists continues in court.
Last year, pro-abortion attorneys general in Pennsylvania and several other states filed lawsuits to overturn new religious protections issued by the Trump administration. The new rules protect the nuns and other religious employers from having to pay for drugs that may cause abortions in their employee health care plans.
A federal judge blocked the rule in response to the Pennsylvania lawsuit, but the Little Sisters appealed. On Tuesday, they achieved a victory at the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Women like the Little Sisters of the Poor do not need bureaucrats trying to push them around,” said lawyer Lori Windham of Becket Law, which is defending the nuns. “The appeals court got it right – the Little Sisters should be allowed their day in court to argue for their rights. It is shameful that [Pennsylvania Attorney General] Josh Shapiro tried to deprive the sisters of their right to defend themselves.”
[P]rotection for their right not to compromise their faith for a political agenda was only five days old when Pennsylvania sued to overturn it.
Once again, the Little Sisters and other religious groups were faced with massive fines for standing by their biblical beliefs.
They jumped into action to defend themselves yet again but, stunningly, a lower court judge, Wendy Beetlestone, ruled they had no right to be heard.
The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals now has put that judge in her place, reversing her order and requiring that the district court allow the Little Sisters to be heard.
At issue in the lawsuit is newly expanded exemptions to the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act HHS mandate. Under Obama, the mandate required that employers, including non-church religious organizations, cover all forms of contraception, from birth control pills to drugs and devices that may cause abortions at no cost to the employees.
While the Obama administration provided exceptions for huge companies such as Pepsi, Visa and ExxonMobile, it refused to provide religious exceptions for the nuns and other religious employers.
Becket lawyers pointed out that the Pennsylvania attorney general did not challenge the exemptions for those big businesses.
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However, Shapiro did challenge the new exemptions issued under the Trump administration in 2017. The new exemptions “provide regulatory relief for religious objectors to Obamacare’s burdensome preventive services mandate, a position supported by the Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby.”
Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor expressed weariness at the four-year-long legal battles.
“We pray that soon this trying time will be over; that the court will rule as the Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the government doesn’t need us to provide these services to women. As Little Sisters of the Poor, all we want is to follow our calling of serving the elderly poor,” Maguire said in a statement.
Interestingly, even Shapiro admitted that the HHS mandate under pro-abortion President Barack Obama was “extremely narrow.” However, he and seven other state attorneys general are challenging the relief offered by the Trump administration just the same.
Other states that are suing over the new rule include California, Massachusetts and Washington, according to the AP.
The Trump administration says the new rules are motivated by “our desire to bring to a close the more than five years of litigation” over the pro-abortion mandate. These include cases by the Little Sister of the Poor, Hobby Lobby and countless other religious organizations and businesses.