by Mary Chastain, May 16, 2016
The Supreme Court unanimously pushed the Little Sisters of the Poor contraception case back to the lower courts, meaning they do not face fines if they do not provide contraception coverage.
Ashley E. McGuire, Senior Fellow at The Catholic Association, released this statement in a press release:
“Today the Supreme Court made it clear that the government still has not done enough to accommodate the conscience rights of the Little Sisters, whose plan they have tried to hijack for things like abortion pills. For now, this is an interim win for the nuns, who just want to get back to their work caring for the poor without interference from government bureaucrats.”
The Little Sisters of the Poor said they could not provide contraceptive coverage because it violates their Catholic faith. However, if they did not follow the Obamacare mandate, they faced fines that could deplete their finances. The group runs “nursing homes around the country.”
In light of the positions asserted by the parties in their supplemental beliefs, the Court vacates the judgements below and remands to the respective United States Courts of Appeals for the Third, Fifth, Tenth, and D.C. Circuits. Given the gravity of the dispute and the substantial clarification and refinement in the positions of the parties, the parties on remand should be afforded an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans “receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.”
In March, justices voiced their belief that Obamacare forcing companies to cover birth control or drugs that cause abortions “violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because it allowed the government to ‘hijack’ the insurance plans of the religious groups that are the petitioners in the case.”
Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, celebrated the decision in a press release:
“We are encouraged by today’s development. The Supreme Court could have ruled against us, but evidently the Obama Administration did not succeed in persuading them to do so. A split Court could also have let the lower court’s negative ruling stand, but again, they did not see fit to do that. Instead, the Supreme Court, upon receiving further briefings, vacated the lower court rulings, and offered the parties an opportunity to work out a mutually acceptable solution in the lower courts, that will both allow the government to pursue its objectives and allow us to practice our faith. We are committed to continuing that process in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.”
Steve Vladeck, professor of law at American University Washington College of Law, told CNN that the justices made the decision because the court only has eight of them since Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in February and it helps them “avoid saying anything on the merits and try to make the case go away.”
Fox News reported the case more than likely will not reach the Supreme Court again until after the 2016 presidential election.
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