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Supreme Court Orders Review of New York Abortion Mandate

Pro-life and pro-choice protesters in front of the Supreme Court (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
• November 2, 2021 2:28 pm

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The Supreme Court on Monday ordered a lower court to review the legality of a New York mandate that requires religious organizations to cover abortion in their insurance plans.

A coalition of religious groups petitioned the Court to strike down the mandate, which denies religious exemptions to groups that employ individuals outside their faith. The justices ordered the Supreme Court of New York to reconsider its 2020 ruling to uphold the law in light of the Supreme Court's unanimous decision in Fulton v. Philadelphia. In that case, the Court said the city violated the First Amendment by terminating its contract with a Catholic adoption agency that would not work with same-sex couples.

Monday's decision is the justices' latest move to uphold the First Amendment rights of religious groups. The Court in April struck down restrictions on religious services imposed by then-New York governor Andrew Cuomo (D.). Court watchers say lower courts could take note of this trend and follow the justices in their own rulings.

The coalition that is challenging New York's 2017 mandate includes more than a dozen religious groups that represent Anglican, Baptist, and Catholic churches. Eric Baxter, a lead attorney for one group, told the Washington Free Beacon that the structure of the law shows the state tried to disqualify as many religious groups from this exemption as possible.

"The New York mandate exempts some religious objectors and it also exempts certain types of coverage," Baxter told the Free Beacon. "This is definitely religious targeting," Baxter said, adding that the mandate is "clearly an effort to try to force everyone to provide coverage for abortion."

Religious leaders behind Monday's case cheered the Supreme Court’s decision.

"We believe that every person is made in the image of God," said Mother Miriam of the Anglican Sisterhood of Saint Mary. "We're grateful that the Supreme Court has taken action in our case and hopeful that, this time around, the New York Court of Appeals will preserve our ability to serve and encourage our neighbors."