On July 8, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States issued an important decision relating to religious liberty and the sanctity of life.
In Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, 591 U.S. _____ (2020), the Court decided a lawsuit involving the infamous Obamacare insurance mandate requiring employers to subsidize their employees’ use of birth control and abortifacients. While the Obama administration created an exemption for religious employers, that exemption failed to adequately protect small businesses and faith-based charities and led the Little Sisters of the Poor to file suit. (The Supreme Court heard their case in 2016, but sent it back to a lower court without deciding it.) The Trump administration expanded the religious exemption to the insurance mandate in 2017. That expansion was challenged in court by the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In a 5-4 decision, the Court held that the Trump administration’s actions did not violate the Affordable Care Act. Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas stated that the government had the authority under the ACA “to provide exemptions from the regulatory contraceptive requirements for employers with religious and conscientious objections.”
This decision is a victory not just for the Little Sisters of the Poor, but for all employers who—for reasons of conscience—cannot fund birth control or abortifacients.