(FamilyRetirementClub.com)- Religious organizations grabbed a victory on Wednesday when the Supreme Court voted to allow employers that have “sincerely held moral or religious objections” to not include contraception in health care plans they provide their employees.
In 2017, President Donald Trump exempted the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious organizations from undue interference from the federal government.” That executive order overturned a mandate that was put in place during the Obama administration.
The Little Sisters of the Poor didn’t want to have to offer contraception in health-care plans they offer as part of their service as a Catholic order of nuns running homes for the poor and elderly.
But the state governments of Pennsylvania and New Jersey sued Trump, claiming his executive order was an overreach of his powers.
Michael Fischer, Pennsylvania’s chief deputy attorney general, said in May that the order as well as an exemption passed by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2018 were “too broad.” He said the Affordable Care Act that was passed in 2010 was put in place to protect women and provide them with coverage for certain services such as contraception.
The Supreme Court disagreed, by a 7-2 vote.
In the majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the Trump administration “had the authority to provide exemptions from the regulatory contraceptive requirements for employers with religious and conscientious objections.”
“The only question we face today is what the plain language of the statute authorizes. And the plain language of the statute clearly allows the Departments to create the preventative care standards as well as the religious and moral exemptions.”
While this decision brings to end this particular legal fight, justices expect that the entire fight will not end. Little Sisters of the Poor have been fighting similar measures for almost 10 years now. In 2016, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the organization, saying the government can’t fine them and instructed lower courts to give the government a way to offer women services without involving Little Sisters of the Poor.
In a concurrence, Justice Samuel Alito touched on just this point, writing:
“We now send these cases back to the lower courts, where the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New Jersey are all but certain to pursue their argument that the current rule is flawed on yet another ground. This will prolong the legal battle in which the Little Sisters have now been engaged for seven years — even though during all this time, no employee of the Little Sisters has come forward with an objection to the Little Sisters’ conduct.”
John Roberts, the chief justice, said he feels like “no one wants this to work.” He based that statement off witnessing the arguments for both sides — those for religious freedom and those who want to boost the available health care of women.
Back in May, Paul Clement, the former solicitor general and the attorney for Little Sisters of the Poor, said the organization wouldn’t comply and offer contraception in their health plans, even if they lost the case.
“There is nothing they can do to allow them to come into compliance with the mandate,” Clement said.
Luckily, they won’t have to worry about that now.