Obama Administration Rejects Nuns' Challenge to Birth Control Mandate

Illustration for article titled Obama Administration Rejects Nuns Challenge to Birth Control Mandate

As 2013 drew to a close, Justice Sotomayor granted a temporary injunction to roughly 200 religiously affiliated organizations, which exempted them from complying with the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate. She gave the Obama administration until 10 a.m. on Friday to respond — and respond they did, disputing the religious challenge as unfounded and requesting that the High Court lift the stay.

Sotomayor acted on a request from an organization called the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Little Sisters were decidedly not into the administration's birth control compromise, in which non-profit organizations that oppose birth control won't have to pay for contraception coverage for their employees — instead, they can merely self-certify that they have religious objectifications to contraception, in which case the insurance company will pay for it with some help from the government. But the Little Sisters' lawyer alleges that merely signing the self-certification form violates their religious rights because it means that someone, somewhere will help women get birth control.


Uhhh, no, says Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. in a 37-page motion filed in opposition to Sotomayor's eleventh-hour injunction:

Applicants have no legal basis to challenge the self-certification requirement or to complain that it involves them in the process of providing contraceptive coverage... applicants' employees and their covered dependents would receive such coverage despite applicants' assertion of their religious objections, not because of those objections.

"The applicants' concern that they are 'authorizing others' to provide coverage lacks any foundation in the facts or the law," concludes Verrilli. Yep, exactly. Their argument is absurd. In the motion, it's explicitly pointed out that the current regulations do not require nonprofit religious organizations to "to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for contraceptive coverage." As Amy Davidson argues at the New Yorker, the real issue here is the idea "that the women who work for [these organizations] have choices that [the organization leaders] would prefer they did not have." Apparently God will only be satisfied if women have no reproductive agency at all.

It's unclear how long it will take the court to make a final decision on the injunction — but here's hoping it's overturned.


Image via AP.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


This is the first article I've read on the matter that took the trouble to spell out the precise nature of the Little Sister's complaint, in order to point out exactly where the legal absurdity of it lie. Thank you for this. It's easy to snark about the subject; what you've done is informative reporting.