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Law & the Courts

The Little Sisters of the Poor Head Back to the Supreme Court

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

News broke earlier this month that the Little Sisters of the Poor are headed back to the Supreme Court for the third time, forced to defend themselves once more against the contraceptive mandate attached to the Affordable Care Act.

The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously in favor of the charitable order of Catholic nuns, determining that the group must not be obligated to comply with the Health and Human Services mandate requiring that they offer contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in its health-care plans, as such drugs violate Catholic teaching.

In 2018, the Trump administration announced a rule bolstering conscience protections for non-profits with religious or moral objections to the HHS mandate. But progressive states persisted in their quest to force all employers to cover birth control and abortifacients, and several, including Pennsylvania and California, sued the federal government over the rule.

So now the Little Sisters are headed back to court yet again, after the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against them in their legal battle with Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro.

According to Becket, the religious-liberty law firm representing the Little Sisters, Pennsylvania has admitted in court that it already has several government programs to provide free or low-cost contraceptives. What’s more, Pennsylvania failed to challenge the Obama administration when it created broader exceptions for secular corporations — covering millions more people than the religious exemption does — and its suit fails to identify a single person who allegedly will lose access to contraception because of the new rule.

This latest round of the lawsuit, like the mandate itself, isn’t about ensuring that women have access to contraception. It is about leveling religious believers simply to illustrate that everyone, regardless of their creed, must comply with the government’s secular vision for society.

There is no contraceptive crisis in the United States. Americans have far more trouble paying for expensive health-care treatments than they do financing various forms of birth control. The mandate, along with the failed crusade against Hobby Lobby and the ceaseless punitive lawsuits against Catholic nuns who serve the elderly poor, are meant to enforce a worldview that contraception is health care — and, in the progressive formulation, a human right. Religious or moral objections must crumple in the face of this view. That isn’t a side effect of the mandate or these lawsuits; it’s the point.

Any state government official who would continue attempting to compel the Little Sisters to violate their beliefs, and anyone who would cheer their efforts, must understand why religious and liberty-minded Americans recoil from this campaign and throw their support behind the current administration.

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