Little Sisters of the Poor Return to Supreme Today to Fight Being Forced to Fund Abortions

National   Steven Ertelt   May 6, 2020   |   10:54AM    Washington, DC

The Little Sisters of the Poor are returning to the Supreme Court once again. They have spent years fighting the Obama HHS mandate that forces Christian groups to fund abortions. The Supreme Court even sided with the Catholic nuns previously, but pro-abortion Democrats have found new ways to drag them back to court.

So today, the Little Sisters of the Poor will once again be at the Supreme Court (virtually) today to defend their ministry of serving the elderly poor. In 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 seven-year legal battle once and for all.

For the first time in Supreme Court history, the Court has decided to hear a handful of cases telephonically in the interest of safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. They will decide if two states can make the Obama abortion mandate enforceable nationwide.

Their attorneys with Becket hope the Supreme Court will let the Catholic nuns serve in peace.

“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,” they told LifeNews.com.

In an opinion column at Fox News, Sister Loraine Marie Maguire asked the nation’s highest court to let the Little Sisters focus on helping the elderly and poor without having to pay for abortions.

We Little Sisters are called to radically love the elderly poor, caring for them in their frailty as we would Christ Himself. It is with this zeal that we will return to the Supreme Court – after seven years of unwanted litigation – to ask the court to protect our ministry and end our legal battle once and for all.

As Catholics, we believe in the inherent dignity of every life from the moment of conception to natural death. That’s why we spend every day accompanying some of the most vulnerable members of our society – holding their hands through the final years, days and moments on this Earth.

Almost a decade ago, our ministry was threatened by the contraceptive mandate – a federal government regulation under the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) that ordered us to provide abortion-inducing drugs in our health plans or face tens of millions of dollars in fines. This would be a death sentence for our ministry.

We cannot hold the hands of the dying elderly while at the same time facilitating the ending of pre-born life. Our faith will not allow it.

Since we knew we could not comply with the mandate, we challenged it in court with the help of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Our case has seen two unanimous wins at the Supreme Court, a government-issued religious exemption, more lawsuits challenging that exemption – and through it all, unceasing prayer.

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On Wednesday we will return to the Supreme Court as one of the ten historic cases chosen for the first telephonic arguments the court has ever held. Lawyers until now have appeared in person before the high court for oral arguments, but the court is hearing cases by phone due to the coronavirus pandemic, and will livestream the arguments for the first time.

The federal government and our brilliant attorneys will ask the Supreme Court justices to end this needless battle and protect our ministry from the contraceptive mandate once and for all.

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 mandate in 2016 at the U.S. Supreme Court, but the new lawsuits pushed them back into court.

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.

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.

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.