WASHINGTON — In a 7-2 decision July 8, the Supreme Court upheld regulations by the Trump administration giving employers more ability to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage in their health plans.
The decision, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, said the administration had “the authority to provide exemptions from the regulatory contraceptive requirements for employers with religious and conscientious objections.”
Dissenting votes were by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.
In a statement, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote, “This is a saga that did not need to occur. Contraception is not health care, and the government should never have mandated that employers provide it in the first place.”
The bishops stated they welcomed the decision and hoped it “brings a close to this episode of government discrimination against people of faith. Yet, considering the efforts we have seen to force compliance with this mandate, we must continue to be vigilant for religious freedom,” they stated.
The statement was issued by Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, chairman of the
USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
The case examined if the expansion of the conscience exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate violated the health care law and laws governing federal administrative agencies.
It highlighted — as it has before when the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate has come before the high court — the Little Sisters of the Poor, the order of women religious who care for the elderly poor. The sisters were represented, as they have been previously, by Becket, a religious liberty law firm.
Ginsburg, in her dissent, stated the court had previously taken a balanced approach in accommodating claims of religious freedom “one that does not allow the religious beliefs of some to overwhelm the rights and interests of others who do not share those beliefs.”
The U.S. bishops said there had been “multiple opportunities for government officials to do the right thing and exempt conscientious objectors. Time after time, administrators and attorneys refused to respect the rights of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the Catholic faith they exemplify, to operate in accordance with the truth about sex and the human person. Even after the federal government expanded religious exemptions to the HHS contraceptive mandate, Pennsylvania and other states chose to continue this attack on conscience.”
Mother Loraine Marie Maguire, the order’s U.S. provincial, said the Little Sisters of the Poor were “overjoyed that, once again, the Supreme Court has protected our right to serve the elderly without violating our faith. Our life’s work and great joy is serving the elderly poor and we are so grateful that the contraceptive mandate will no longer steal our attention from our calling.”