A group of charitable nuns will be forced pay for drugs that may cause abortions in their employee health plans as a result of a federal judge’s ruling Sunday.
The ruling by Judge Haywood Gilliam, a nominee of pro-abortion President Barack Obama, blocks the Trump administration from enforcing rules that provide wider religious exemptions to groups like Little Sisters of the Poor, the Washington Examiner reports.
In 2017, pro-abortion attorneys general in Pennsylvania, California and several other states filed lawsuits to overturn new religious protections issued by the Trump administration. The new rules protect the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious employers from having to pay for birth control drugs and devices that may cause abortions in their employee health care plans.
The Little Sisters won a victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016, but the new lawsuits pushed them back into court.
The Sunday ruling affects employers in the District of Columbia and 13 states, but Gilliam did not block the rules nation-wide as the pro-abortion attorneys general asked, the AP reports. Gilliam, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, also previously blocked another version of the exemptions.
Another federal court considered a similar challenge Friday from Pennsylvania’s pro-abortion attorney general. The ruling on that case has not yet been issued.
Abortion activists celebrated the news Sunday.
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“Newsflash: Birth control is health care – no matter what the Trump-Pence administration thinks or whether your boss agrees with it,” Planned Parenthood tweeted Sunday.
But the new rule is not about restricting access to birth control, which is widely and easily available across America. It is about protecting religious freedom. The Obamacare mandate forces employers to provide every form of birth control, including types that may cause abortions, in their employee health plans. Many religious employers, like the Hobby Lobby craft store chain, do not oppose providing most forms of birth control, but they do oppose the types that may end an unborn baby’s life.
Whats more, the Obama administration carved out exemptions for huge corporations like ExxonMobil and PepsiCo but not for religious individuals. Lawyers with the Becket Foundation, which represent the Little Sisters, pointed out that Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro did not challenge the exemptions for those big businesses.
Shapiro and other pro-abortion attorneys general have claimed that the Trump administration rules violate the First and Fifth Amendments because they put employers’ religious rights over women’s and deny women equal protection under the law, Patch reports.
But even Shapiro admitted that the HHS mandate under Obama was “extremely narrow,” leaving little room for religious exemptions.
Trump’s order limits a rule created under the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act that required employers, including non-church religious organizations, to cover all forms of contraception at no cost to the employees, including birth control drugs and devices that can cause abortions.
Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket and lead attorney for the Little Sisters, previously told LifeNews: “Sadly 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. 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.”
The controversial birth control mandate has twice made it to the Supreme Court where it sided with both Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters.
The court ruled that Hobby Lobby and other similar businesses were protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which states that an individual’s religious expression shouldn’t be “substantially burdened” by a law unless there is a “compelling government interest.”
In the Hobby Lobby ruling, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the ACA birth control rule “would put these merchants to a difficult choice: either give up the right to seek judicial protection of their religious liberty or forgo the benefits, available to their competitors, of operating as corporations.”