The Corner

Law & the Courts

Here We Go Again. Little Sisters of the Poor at the Supreme Court.

Sister Loraine McGuire with Little Sisters of the Poor speaks to the media in Washington, D.C., March 23, 2016. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

As you may know, the Little Sisters of the Poor run homes for the elderly poor. Their homes are little windows into Heaven, based on my experience with their D.C. home. The residents tend to welcome you with the same love that the women who dedicate their lives to this service do – it’s as if they are something out of the Acts of the Apostles, men and women sharing the same heart, union with the Heart of Jesus.

The Little Sisters have been on the front-lines of the Coronavirus care, and have lost a number of residents in their Newark, Delaware home. But still here they are at the Supreme Court for a second time today (the oral arguments being heard by telephone this time), all for the same Obamacare mandate that brought on a fight that was unnecessary from the start. But their continued participation in this fight is one for life and liberty, as this was never just about  birth control, but abortafacients, too. And why on earth would Catholic nuns have to have anything to do with either one? And as we have seen with abortion clinics being deemed essential during our ongoing Coronavirus crisis, the ideology that has been keeping the Little Sisters in Court doesn’t stop there.

Helen Alvare has an oped in the Wall Street Journal with all the essentials on this latest round – including a fact that is true in another Becket Fund for Religious Liberty case on foster care and the city of Philadelphia and the Catholic Church that will be heard this fall: there is no actual complaint that lead to government action. This is an ideological battle hostile to our basic liberties.

Here’s some of Alvare’s piece, “The Endless War on the Little Sisters of the Poor”:

A lot has changed in the decade since ObamaCare was passed. The government has beefed up Title X, so that women who don’t receive contraceptive coverage through their religious employers can be covered by Uncle Sam. Anyone who doesn’t like her employer’s insurance offerings can now get a plan on the ObamaCare exchanges. Nurx and Planned Parenthood have found ways to prescribe birth control online and have it delivered to your door. It has never been easier or more affordable to obtain contraceptives.

One thing hasn’t changed. Those who oppose the Little Sisters of the Poor still can’t identify one woman who can’t get contraceptives without help from Catholic nuns. That was always strange given how many employers were exempted for reasons like administrative convenience. It was also ignorant about theology: For many faith traditions, mission-driven service outside the walls of a church is a central command.

The Little Sisters have never subsidized a single birth-control pill or intrauterine device. They have never covered contraceptives in their health plan. So should the court rule in their favor in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, no woman would lose coverage.

The states claim, contrary to the federal government’s own admissions, that the Little Sisters’ religious beliefs are harming women who can’t get contraception. But in nearly a decade since the Affordable Care Act was passed, states haven’t identified a woman who lacks coverage under the current religious exemption, or any other exemption.

Do the underserved women the states claim to defend exist, or is it all a political ploy to bring down religious exemptions and the faith-based ministries that rely on them?

God bless the Little Sisters of the Poor. May they prevail at the Court, for everyone’s sake.

Here’s the little video I made for the “virtual rally” the Becket Fund had this morning, instead of the typical in-person rally outside the Court.


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