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Supreme Court Hands Nuns Partial Win In Birth Control Case

The nation’s highest court said Friday a group of nuns temporarily does not have to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.
Posted at 9:47 AM, Jan 25, 2014

The nation’s highest court said Friday a group of Colorado nuns — for the time being — does not have to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.

The Supreme Court ruled the Little Sisters of the Poor — a Catholic charity that runs nursing homes — will be temporarily exempt from having to provide birth control to those who work for them. (Via The Becket Fund For Religious Liberty)

You see, under the Affordable Care Act, most health plans are required to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives, free-of-cost. (via Wikimedia Commons / Bryancalabro

Churches and houses of worship are exempt from this requirement, but religiously affiliated non-profit groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor nuns must first fill-out a government issued form certifying they object on religious grounds. In exchange, a third-party health administrator then provides the required contraceptives.

But the Little Sisters of the Poor said that essentially makes them still complicit in providing contraceptives, and therefore their religious liberty was still violated. (Via U.S. Supreme Court

In a ruling Friday, the Supreme Court put the mandate on hold — ruling the nuns, and other religious groups like them, can instead notify the government in writing they’re a non-profit religious organization, and they'll be exempt while their legal battle plays out in the courts. (Via CBS)

It’s a compromise, really. The court only ruled on the issue of enforcement, not the larger issue of whether the contraception mandate violates religious protections. That decision is on hold while the case is pending in the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

And while it’s only a partial-victory for the Catholic charity, the group’s attorney praised the court’s ruling.  (Via Slate)

DANIEL BLOMBERG: “Now they’re protected, at least, so they can have their day in court and go through and argue." (Via Fox News)

A law professor at Yeshiva University sees it differently, telling Businessweek:

“The court has ordered the Sisters to do what they said would burden them -- provide notice -- and so I view this as a win for the Obama administration.”

In March, the court is scheduled to hear a related challenge from Hobby Lobby — a for-profit company that argues the Affordable Care Act contraception mandate violates its religious beliefs.