Supreme Court to hear nuns’ challenge to Obamacare contraceptive mandate

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The U.S. Supreme Court will soon have another opportunity to determine the legal contours of religious liberty in America.

On Friday, the Court announced that it will consider the arguments of Christian-affiliated institutions that they should be exempt from the contraceptive mandate of Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

Under the controversial mandate issued by the Department of Health and Human Services in January 2014, all employer health plans must provide coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs. The law makes an exception for churches, but not for religiously-affiliated institutions, such as Catholic hospitals or colleges.

The most prominent of the seven challenges to the “contraceptive mandate” accepted by the Court last week is the case brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Roman Catholic nuns who operate group nursing homes for the elderly poor in 18 U.S. cities, including Somerville, Mass. The Little Sisters provide employee health insurance coverage consistent with their faith through the Christian Brothers Employer Benefit Trust and Christian Brothers Services.

Last year, in the case of Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, the Supreme Court held that certain closely-held family businesses may opt out of providing contraceptives for religious reasons.

Shortly thereafter, the Obama administration offered an accommodation for religious-affiliated groups that allows a third party to provide the objectionable coverage so long as the employer signs a document allowing them to do so.

But Little Sisters of the Poor argue that the proposed accommodation, nevertheless, forces them act as a conduit for coverage that they find objectionable on religious grounds.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral argument in the cases in March and will decide the matter by June. This is will be the fourth time the Court has reviewed portions of Obamacare.


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