The U.S. Supreme Court just handed down a decision that might signal victory for religious organizations opposed to the Obamacare mandate to offer drugs to employees that could induce abortions.
Religious groups like Little Sisters of the Poor objected to the mandate and a so-called accommodation that would require them to contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) about their objection and provide information about their insurance companies.
The DHS would contact the companies and make them pay for the drugs.
But religious groups think even the accommodation requires their complicity in abortion.
Little Sisters of the Poor and other groups presented a compromise at the court’s request last month. Insurance companies can offer separate coverage, enrollment, and insurance cards for covering drugs that might induce abortions, similar to vision or dental insurance, with religious groups having no part in the transaction.
Apparently, the compromise was persuasive enough to delay a decision on the merits. In a unanimous ruling on Monday, the court sent the case back to the lower courts. From the court’s opinion (PDF):
“The Court expresses no view on the merits of the cases. In particular, the Court does not decide whether petitioners’ religious exercise has been substantially burdened, whether the Government has a compelling interest, or whether the current regulations are the least restrictive means of serving that interest.
“Nothing in this opinion, or in the opinions or orders of the courts below, is to affect the ability of the Government to ensure that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘obtain, without cost, the full range of FDA approved contraceptives.’…
“Because the Government may rely on this notice, the Government may not impose taxes or penalties on petitioners for failure to provide the relevant notice.”
The case isn’t over for religious groups, but while the issue is pending, it looks like they won’t have to pay government fines for refusing to violate their mission to save unborn babies.
“We are very encouraged by the Court’s decision, which is an important win for the Little Sisters,” Becket Fund attorney Mark Rienzi said in a statement. “The Court has recognized that the government changed its position. It is crucial that the Justices unanimously ordered the government not to impose these fines and indicated that the government doesn’t need any notice to figure out what should now be obvious — the Little Sisters respectfully object. There is still work to be done, but today’s decision indicates that we will ultimately prevail in court.”
Photo credit: American Life League (Creative Commons) – Some Rights Reserved