- The Washington Times - Friday, August 21, 2015

A federal appeals court that refused to exempt a group of nuns from Obamacare’s birth-control rules said Friday the sisters can duck the mandate and its hefty fines until the Supreme Court decides whether to take up their appeal.

The Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged is among several nonprofit plaintiffs who’ve asked the justices to hear them out next term, saying the Obama administration hasn’t done enough to absolve them from providing birth control they find sinful, including morning-after pills that Catholic groups equate with abortion.

“The federal government doesn’t need the Little Sisters or any other ministry to help it distribute abortion-inducing drugs and other contraceptives,” Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said Friday.

The groups haven’t persuaded top federal judges, though. When the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit turned away the Little Sisters last month, it became the fifth appellate court to reject religious nonprofits’ challenge to the Obama administration policy.

Even so, the 10th Circuit said Friday the nuns would be shielded from the mandate until the Supreme Court reviews their petition. If it accepts the case, the stay of the mandate will remain in place until the justices rule.

The contraception mandate is a outgrowth of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 that requires employers to cover 20 types of FDA-approved drugs and services as part of their health plans or else pay fines. Pitched as a boon for women’s health, the rules quickly spawned controversy, with dozens of religious nonprofits and devout business owners filing suit.

So far, appeals judges have said an accommodation finalized by the Department of Health and Human Services strikes the right balance by carving the employers out of the coverage while making sure a third party provides the drug and services to their workers.

The nonprofits say they’re still complicit in sinful activity and that they’ll find more sympathetic ears before the high court, which last year insulated certain corporations from the Obamacare-related mandate requiring employers to cover 20 types of FDA-approved drugs and services as part of their health plan.

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