MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell had trouble finding the words to say that Pope Francis opposes abortion during her report from the Capitol, stammering while discussing the Pope's visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor in support of its lawsuit against Obamacare's contraceptive mandates.
Mitchell was discussing some of the themes of the Pope's speech to a Joint Session of Congress, which includes a commitment to religious liberty.
"The importance of religious freedom, of course, is an allusion to his support for the church and the American bishops' protest against some of the provisions in Obamacare," Mitchell said. "He actually stopped in an unannounced visit, we're told, last night at the Little Sisters of the Poor here in Washington, who had filed that lawsuit against the provisions that provided healthcare and, uh, terms of, uh, uh, uh, abortion, and other–other…health rights in Obamacare.
"So that is one of the things he might allude to here, the value of life, which he did not do specifically in the president's backyard, probably in deference to President Obama, trying not to emphasize their differences."
MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell struggles to say the Pope is against abortions pic.twitter.com/TCQo2VEstz
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) September 24, 2015
The Little Sisters of the Poor filed the class-action lawsuit because they feel they are being compelled to participate "in the government's program to provide access to abortion-inducing drugs." Vatican officials indicated the Pope's visit was "intended to be a message of support in the nuns' battle against Obamacare," USA Today reported:
The religious order of Catholic sisters is suing the Obama administration over a provision of the Affordable Care Act that the administration has interpreted as requiring the sisters to purchase health insurance with birth control coverage.
Catholic teaching opposes the use of birth control. The sisters can request a waiver, but their lawsuit argues that requiring that paperwork infringes on their religious freedom. The sisters are suing under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a Clinton-era law that prohibits the government from placing a "substantial burden" on the free exercise of religion.
Last August, an appeals court sided with the government, but an unusual dissent by five judges this month called that decision "clearly and gravely wrong — on an issue that has little to do with contraception and a great deal to do with religious liberty." The question now goes to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Francis met with the sisters at their Washington convent next door to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where he celebrated a canonization Mass for St. Junipero Serra. The private meeting was not on the pope's public schedule and was only disclosed afterward.
"This is a sign, obviously, of support for them," said Vatican press secretary Rev. Federico Lombardi.