Court Rules Obama Admin Can Force Little Sisters of the Poor to Pay for Birth Control

Richard SontagChurch News, US News

In a surprising decision, a federal appeals court has determined that a Catholic religious order, the Little Sisters of the Poor, must comply with Obamacare’s abortion mandate. The mandate compels religious groups to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions.

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Without relief, the Little Sisters face millions of dollars in IRS fines because they cannot comply with the government’s mandate that they give their employees free access to contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.

Previously, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily protected the Little Sisters from the mandate. The Little Sisters then went before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver to extend that protection, but the appeals court ruled against them. Today, the appeals court upheld that ruling.

Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor responded to the appeals court ruling in an email to LifeNews.com:

“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. For over 175 years, we have served the neediest in society with love and dignity. All we ask is to be able to continue our religious vocation free from government intrusion.”

Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor told LifeNews he is disappointed by the ruling and promised to review a possible appeal to the Supreme Court.

“We’re disappointed with today’s decision. After losing repeatedly at the Supreme Court, the government continues its unrelenting pursuit of the Little Sisters of the Poor. It is a national embarrassment that the world’s most powerful government insists that, instead of providing contraceptives through its own existing exchanges and programs, it must crush the Little Sisters’ faith and force them to participate,” he said. “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.”

The Tenth Circuit heard oral argument in this case December of last year, when for the first time since the case began, Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor, delivered a public statement on the case.

Today the Tenth Circuit ruled that government can force the Little Sisters to either violate their faith or pay massive IRS penalties. The court held that participating in the government’s contraception delivery scheme is “as easy as obtaining a parade permit, filing a simple tax for, or registering to vote” and that although the Sisters sincerely believe that participating in the scheme “make[s] them complicit in the overall delivery scheme,” the court “ultimately rejects the merits of this claim,” because the court believes the scheme relieves [the Little Sisters] from complicity.”

The Little Sisters and their attorneys are closely reviewing the court’s decision and will decide soon whether they must seek relief from the Supreme Court.

“We will keep on fighting for the Little Sisters, even if that means having to go all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Daniel Blomberg, Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

The Court’s order similarly harms Christian Brothers Services and Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, the Catholic ministries through which the Little Sisters obtain their health coverage.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the Christian-run Hobby Lobby doesn’t have to obey the HHS mandate that is a part of Obamacare that requires businesses to pay for abortion causing drugs in their employee health care plans.

A December 2013 Rasmussen Reports poll shows Americans disagree with forcing companies like Hobby Lobby to obey the mandate.

“Half of voters now oppose a government requirement that employers provide health insurance with free contraceptives for their female employees,” Rasmussen reports.

The poll found: “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 38% of Likely U.S. Voters still believe businesses should be required by law to provide health insurance that covers all government-approved contraceptives for women without co-payments or other charges to the patient.

Fifty-one percent (51%) disagree and say employers should not be required to provide health insurance with this type of coverage. Eleven percent (11%) are not sure.”

Another recent poll found 59 percent of Americans disagree with the mandate.