The Supreme Court upheld exemptions for the contraceptive mandate under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for entities with religious or moral objections in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania. The order of nuns has faced nearly a decade of court battles after the Obama administration refused to allow exemptions to the mandate for religious entities.
While President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) threatened the order with fines for non-compliance, the Little Sisters argue that the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) protects them from the far-reaching mandate.
The Trump administration allowed exemptions to the provision and the court upheld them in a 7-2 ruling, with Justice Clarence Thomas authoring the majority opinion:
“Consistent with their Catholic faith, the Little Sisters hold the religious conviction ‘that deliberately avoiding reproduction through medical means is immoral.’ They challenged the self certification accommodation, claiming that completing the certification form would force them to violate their religious beliefs by ‘tak[ing] actions that directly cause others to provide contraception or appear to participate in the Departments’ delivery scheme,’ he wrote. “It is clear from the face of the statute that the contraceptive mandate is capable of violating RFRA. The ACA does not explicitly exempt RFRA, and the regulations implementing the contraceptive mandate qualify as ‘Federal law’ or ‘the implementation of [Federal] law.’”
Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissented, citing out-of pocket costs for contraception and accessibility.