SCOTUS upholds administration exemptions to birth control mandate

Fox News reported that on Wednesday, in the much-anticipated decision in the Little Sisters of the Poor case, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Trump administration’s expanded exemptions to the contraception mandate contained in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

At issue in the case were objections to the birth control edict lodged by the Little Sisters of the Poor, a charity geared toward providing assistance to disadvantaged elderly communities.

Big win for Little Sisters

Upon its enactment, the ACA, also known as Obamacare, required employer-provided health insurance coverage to include birth control drugs and devices without copays, regardless of the type of enterprise involved, according to NPR. As such, the Catholic sisters comprising the Little Sisters of the Poor faced a government mandate to pay for contraception to which they are fundamentally opposed on religious grounds, as did many other similarly-situated groups.

In response to such scenarios, the Trump administration broadened existing exemptions to the mandate to include religious groups and certain other for-profit businesses, and the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania subsequently filed suit to invalidate those exemptions, according to CNBC.

In a 7–2 decision, the court upheld the administration’s rule in what many are hailing as a vindication of religious liberty in this country.

Outcome cheered

During an interview with Fox News, a representative from the Little Sisters of the Poor expressed her happiness about the judicial victory.

“We dedicate our lives to this because we believe in the dignity of every human life at every stage of life from conception until natural death. So, we’ve devoted our lives — by religious vows — to caring for the elderly,” Sister Constance Veit told Fox, adding:

And, we literally are by their bedside holding their hand as they pass on to eternal life. So, it’s unthinkable for us, on the one way, to be holding the hand of the dying elderly, and on the other hand, to possibly be facilitating the taking of innocent unborn life.

Judicial Crisis Network Vice President and Senior Counsel Frank Scaturro celebrated as well, tweeting, “The Court’s decision today upholding that exemption is a victory for freedom of religion and conscience—for the Little Sisters and for everyone.”

Liberals respond

However, not everyone was heralding the Supreme Court’s decision — and that includes Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, who were the only dissenters in the case.

“Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree,” Ginsburg wrote, according to The Hill. She went on:

Destructive of the Women’s Health Amendment, this Court leaves women workers to fend for themselves, to seek contraceptive coverage from sources other than their employer’s insurer, and, absent another available source of funding, to pay for contraceptive services out of their own pockets.

House Democrats are no less outraged by the outcome, with Newsweek reporting that a group of four female lawmakers will introduce legislation designed to upend the Trump administration rule expanding the exemption in the first place.

The matter will now return to the lower courts from which it came, where, as Justice Samuel Alito predicted, the Trump rule will likely be challenged anew by Pennsylvania and New Jersey on alternative grounds. As such, the long-term durability of the Little Sisters’ victory at the Supreme Court remains to be seen.

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