Court Forces Nuns to Comply With Obamacare Contraception Mandate

little sisters
Sister Loraine Marie Maguire / AP
July 14, 2015

The Little Sisters of the Poor lost its suit against the Obamacare contraception mandate in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday.

The Denver Post reported that a three-judge appellate panel ruled against the Little Sisters, a Catholic order that runs dozens of nursing homes across the nation, in its challenge to the process organizations are required to follow to opt out of the Affordable Care Act contraception mandate.

"As Little Sisters of the Poor we simply cannot choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith, and we should not have to make that choice because it violates our nation’s commitment to ensuring that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God’s calling in their lives," Mother Provincial Sister Loraine Marie Maguire said in a statement.

Little Sisters in addition to four Christian universities in Oklahoma, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, filed the suit, the oral arguments for which were heard by the court in December.

The groups objected to the Obamacare requirement that stipulates companies providing health insurance to employees must offer preventative care benefits, including contraception.

Though the federal government implemented a regulation that exempts religious employers—churches and religiously-affiliated universities and hospitals, among others—from covering contraception if they oppose doing so on religious grounds, organizations must actively seek exemption and demonstrate a substantial burden in order to receive it.

The court decided Tuesday that abiding by the process to get out from under the contraception mandate "does not substantially burden [Little Sisters’] religious exercise under RFRA (The Religious Freedom Restoration Act) or infringe upon their First Amendment rights."

According to the court, Little Sisters can now provide the health benefit for contraception, actively apply for the exemption, or refuse to offer the benefit and pay a fine to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Becket Fund senior counsel Mark Rienzi slammed the decision, accusing the government of "crush[ing] the Little Sisters’ faith and forc[ing] them to participate" in the contraception mandate.

"Untold millions of people have managed to get contraceptives without involving nuns, and there is no reason the government cannot run its programs without hijacking the Little Sisters and their health plan," Rienzi said.

Published under: Religious Freedom