Democrats Trying Once Again to Force Little Sisters of the Poor to Fund Abortions

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   May 4, 2020   |   12:47PM   |   Washington, DC

Democrat politicians will urge the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to force a charity run by nuns to pay for contraception, including forms that may cause abortions, in violation of their religious beliefs.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, a charity that assists the elderly and poor, have been fighting against the Obamacare contraception mandate for about eight years. The mandate forces them to pay for all FDA-approved forms of contraception, including forms that may end the life of a newly formed human being, in their employee health insurance plans, or pay crippling fines.

On Wednesday, they will return to the Supreme Court for the second time to argue against Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a pro-abortion Democrat. The case is Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

“… the Sisters are asking the Supreme Court to put a stop to Pennsylvania’s attempt to take away their hard-earned religious exemption from the HHS contraceptive mandate, and end their eight-year legal battle once and for all,” the Becket legal firm, which represents the Little Sisters, said in a statement.

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 an initial victory against the madate in 2016 at the U.S. Supreme Court, but the new lawsuits pushed them back into court.

“Now more than ever, as the Little Sisters work tirelessly to preserve the physical and spiritual health of the elderly poor in their care, it is important for Pennsylvania and other state governments to leave the Little Sisters alone and let them carry out their ministry in peace,” Becket said.

A first, the oral arguments on Wednesday will be done over the telephone, and people will be able to listen in live through C-SPAN.

The Pennsylvania attorney general is challenging the nuns’ religious exemption granted by the Trump administration. After a loss in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the order of Catholic nuns is asking the Supreme Court to end their long legal battle and let them keep their focus on serving the elderly poor.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals placed a nationwide injunction on the Trump administration’s new conscience protection rule. On Oct. 22, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals also placed an injunction on the new rule for the following states: California, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, New York, Illinois, Washington, Minnesota, Connecticut, North Carolina, Vermont, Rhode Island, Hawaii and Washington, D.C. The case consolidates two challenges, Trump v. Pennsylvania and Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania.

“It has been six long years since we began our legal battle against government mandates that threaten our ministry,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “We hope we have finally reached the end of this arduous process, that the Supreme Court will reaffirm their previous decision, and that we will soon be able to keep our focus on the elderly poor.”

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Their case is different from the Supreme Court decision involving Hobby Lobby, the Christian-owned craft store chain. In that decision, the high court gave closely-held for-profit corporations “exemptions from the contraception mandate, in accordance with the companies’ owners’ ‘sincerely held’ beliefs,” the Washington Examiner reports. Also, Hobby Lobby did not object to providing all forms of contraception, only those that may cause abortions.

The Examiner reports more background on the Little Sisters’ case:

The group, a Catholic women’s religious order, has been in battle with first the federal and then state governments since 2011, when it refused to comply with a mandate prescribed by the Obama-era Affordable Care Act. The mandate, which provoked lawsuits from a number of conservative and religious groups, provided only very narrow exemptions related to contraception, forcing many faith-based institutions to offer in their healthcare plans what they considered abortifacients.

The Little Sisters sued in 2013, after failing to secure an exemption. In their case, part of a class-action lawsuit filed by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit legal group, the Little Sisters alleged that the government was forcing them to “abandon their Catholic beliefs” by complying with the mandate.

Since then, leading Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have been advocating against the nuns’ case. In April, Pelosi, who claims to be a Catholic herself, slammed the religious exemption as “despicable.”

Notably, the Obama administration carved out exemptions in Obamacare for huge corporations like ExxonMobil and PepsiCo but not for religious individuals. Lawyers with the Becket Foundation pointed out that Attorney General 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, president of Becket, said it is time for the “nonsensical political battle” to stop.

“These states have not been able to identify a single person who would lose contraceptive coverage under the new HHS rule, but they won’t rest until Catholic nuns are forced to pay for contraceptives,” Rienzi said, previously. “It is time for the Supreme Court to finally put this issue to rest.”

In 2016, Democrat government leaders admitted before the Supreme Court that the government has ways to get contraception to women without forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor to participate.

President Donald Trump has stood with the Little Sisters in their battle.

During the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference in Washington this year, Trump defended religious freedom for the Little Sisters and others.

“When I asked for your support in 2016, Americans of faith were under assault. But the shameful attempt to suppress religious believers ended the day I took the oath of office,” the president said.

“My administration has taken historic action to protect religious liberty. We’re protecting the conscience rights of doctors and nurses and teachers and groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor. We’re with them,” Trump told the audience of hundreds of Christian voters.