California and others states still are trying to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee insurance policies.
The nuns won at the U.S. Supreme court in their lawsuit against President Obama’s abortion mandate. But now states are imposing their own regulations, and California, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland and New York, won a temporary order Thursday from the often-reversed 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowing them to require the coverage.
The ruling came in a request to reinstate temporary federal rules that protect religious and pro-life groups that conscientiously object to the abortion-pill mandate under Obamacare.
“The previous administration implemented the mandate to force employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide their employees with abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception under threat of heavy financial penalties,” explained the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the nonprofit March for Life.
“The government shouldn’t be forcing anyone to provide life-destroying drugs and devices,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor.
“HHS rightly freed organizations like March for Life and the Little Sisters of the Poor from the abortion-pill mandate. California and other states filed a lawsuit that resulted in a court order that blocked those new rules. The 9th Circuit should have lifted that order and affirmed these protections, which simply ensure that pro-life organizations can pursue their missions consistent with their most foundational beliefs.”
The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic organization dedicated to the care of the poorest of the poor in society, filed a lawsuit that ended in victory in the U.S. Supreme Court.
But several states then implemented the mandate in their regulations.
Temporary HHS rules released in October 2017 were designed to relieved dissenting employers from the abortion-pill mandate and help resolve numerous outstanding lawsuits.
ADF explained that HHS recently published final versions of the new protections. They scheduled to go into effect Jan. 14, meaning the 9th Circuit opinion does not affect the final rules.
But California and several other states have been fighting the interim rules and plan to challenge the final rules.
The opinion was a split 2-1 decision with judges J. Clifford Wallace and Susan Graber backing the mandate. Judge Andrew Kleinfeld objected.
The states’ argument was that if women are not given free contraceptives, they may have children that “impose financial costs on the state.” Wallace and Graber discounted any concerns about religious rights while admitting that protecting them is “obviously in the public interest.”
But they claimed they “do not have a sufficient basis to second guess the district court” that backed the mandate.
But the two judges scolded the district judge for creating a nationwide injunction, insisting the ruling should affect only the states participating in the case.
Kleinfeld said the state governments lack standing to bring the legal action.
“The federal regulatory change itself imposes no obligation on the states to provide money for contraception. The plaintiff states choose to provide some contraception benefits to employees of employers exempted by the federal insurance requirement,” he wrote.
So it’s the states’ own choice, he said.
The two-judge ruling conflicts with most of the recent rulings in similar disputes. Most federal rulings have found that groups with religious objections to financially supporting abortion are exempt.