Denver, CO, United States (4E) – Nuns running a Denver charity group should not be forced to provide contraceptives, sterilizations and drugs and devices that cause abortions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor ruled in an injunction issued late New Year’s Eve.
The Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged, together with religious health benefit providers Christian Brothers Services and the Christian Brothers Employee Benefits Trust, won the injunction from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which Sotomayor oversees, after arguing that the ACA mandate should be halted while the court considers a legal challenge to the provision by Hobby Lobby, a retail chain of arts and crafts stores based in Oklahoma City.
The family-owned Hobby Lobby asked the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma in September 2012 for an injunction to prevent the application of the ACA requirement for the Christian-owned-and-operated business to provide, without co-pay, the “morning after pill” and “week after pill” in their health insurance plan, or face crippling fines up to 1.3 million dollars per day.
The district court denied Hobby Lobby’s petition, which invoked the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The circuit court, however, reversed the lower court’s decision and remanded the case to the latter in June 2013. In its ruling, the circuit court said Hobby Lobby may challenge the mandate to provide employees with coverage for contraceptives under the ACA.
The circuit court ruling effectively waived millions of dollars of fines against Hobby Lobby and a subsidiary, Mardel Christian Stores, which refused to comply with the mandate.
Sotomayor ordered the federal government to file by Friday a brief in response to the Little Sisters’ application for relief.
It was not the first injunction against the ACA birth control mandate. Eighteen other injunctions have been issued for similar cases giving no reason for the Little Sisters to be singled out for fines and punishment, according to Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the charity group.
The ACA allows insurers to create a way to reimburse religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and social service groups that oppose birth control. However, that option requires the Little Sisters’ nuns to sign a form authorizing their insurance company to provide contraceptive coverage, which would still violate their beliefs, explained Rienzi.
“Without an emergency injunction, Mother Provincial Loraine Marie Maguire has to decide between two courses of action: (a) sign and submit a self-certification form, thereby violating her religious beliefs; or (b) refuse to sign the form and pay ruinous fines,” he said, according to NBC News.