The Associated Press reports:
hours before the law was to take effect, a Supreme Court justice on
Tuesday blocked implementation of part of President Obama's health care
law that would have forced some religion-affiliated organizations to
provide health insurance for employees that includes birth control
Justice Sonia Sotomayor's decision came after a
different effort by Catholic-affiliated groups from around the U.S.
Those groups had rushed to the federal courts to stop Wednesday's start
of portions of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Sotomayor acted on a request from an organization of Catholic nuns in
Denver, the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged. Its request
for an emergency stay had been denied earlier in the day by a federal
The Los Angeles Times reports:
acted on an emergency appeal from lawyers for the group who said the
nuns faced "draconian fines" beginning on New Year's Day if they failed
to comply with the law widely known as Obamacare.
the government until Friday to file a response in the case. Her order
extends only to the group of nuns and does not apply more broadly to the
Affordable Care Act and its requirements. ...
It was unclear
how the Obama administration would proceed after Sotomayor's order.
Obama is vacationing with his family in Hawaii this week, and the White
House is not expected to make any comment before the Justice Department
files a response to Sotomayor's ruling on Friday.
A number of
religious groups with similar objections have vigorously challenged the
Affordable Care Act in court. The Colorado order of nuns, the Little
Sisters of the Poor, asked for the last-minute ruling Tuesday because
the healthcare law's provisions go into effect Jan. 1.
This past October, Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online interviewed Sister Constance Veit, L.S.P., communications director for the Little Sisters of the Poor:
LOPEZ: How is the HHS mandate going to hurt you?
CONSTANCE: Non-compliance with the mandate would incur huge fines,
constituting a severe financial burden for us and diverting much-needed
funds away from the care of the poor. As it stands now, to offer our
employees health insurance without free access to abortion-inducing
drugs and devices, sterilization procedures, and contraceptives would
risk fines of $100 per day per affected individual. For a home with 50
insured employees, this would mean fines of nearly $2 million per year.
Similar fines could be imposed on each of our 30 U.S. homes! This is a
tremendous price to pay for continuing our mission, since we already
rely on donations for about half of our operating expenses in most of
Several people have asked how we can justify using our
limited funds to pursue this lawsuit. I would like to make clear that
the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is representing us pro bono, as
they do all their clients, so thankfully we have not been forced to
spend money that should be going to the poor on this case.
LOPEZ: What’s religious liberty to you?
CONSTANCE: Religious liberty is both the freedom to worship according
to one’s faith and the ability to live and contribute to the common good
in harmony with one’s religious beliefs. For the Little Sisters, this
means being free to lead our religious life and pursue our mission of
hospitality to the elderly poor in fidelity to the teachings of the
Roman Catholic Church and the ideals of our religious congregation.
LOPEZ: How does your opposition to this mandate square with your support for health care?
CONSTANCE: We share the Church’s position that access to basic, quality
health care is a universal human right, and that any just health-care
policy must respect all human life, from conception to natural death.
Unfortunately, the HHS contraceptive mandate fails to respect human life
at its beginning and that is why we and other religious institutions
cannot abide by it. Individuals are free to access these services
through other channels; we are merely saying that we cannot in
conscience participate in providing them.
The Church also
believes that just health-care policies must include special concern for
the poor. This is the heart of our mission. Our lives are uniquely
devoted to providing quality health care and a dignified life to the
neediest elderly among us, no matter how weak or diminished they may be.
are also committed to offering our lay employees just compensation and
the best health-care insurance we can afford. But we must provide these
benefits in accord with Catholic teaching.
Read the entire interview.