29 January 2014
Michael Sean Winters
US Supreme Court backs nuns against contraception mandate
The US Supreme Court affirmed an injunction against the controversial contraception mandate, in a case brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor.
The mandate requires employers to purchase insurance for employees that includes contraception cover, unless they are specifically exempted. The court stated that if the Little Sisters write to the Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), affirming that they object to the mandate, HHS cannot enforce the mandate or levy fines against them while the lawsuits proceed.
The court did not address the merits of the issue, and sent the case back to the Circuit Court of Appeals for adjudication.
The Little Sisters argue that the HHS self-certification form they had been asked to sign in order to avoid purchasing the contraception coverage is a “permission slip” to their insurer, triggering the coverage to which they object.
The US Department of Justice argued that, in the Sisters’ case, they were fully exempt because their insurance company is itself a religious organisation run by the Christian Brothers.
In March, the Supreme Court will hear arguments regarding a challenge to the mandate filed by for-profit firms, and court observers expect the Little Sisters and similar non-profit cases to eventually make their way to the high court as well.
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