- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2017

The lawyer representing a group of Catholic nuns said Friday that the administration’s new exemption from Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate is welcome, but he said it won’t end the Little Sisters of the Poor’s ongoing legal challenge.

Mark Rienzi, an attorney for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, still wants the courts to issue a ruling protecting religious nonprofits like the nuns, saying he wants to lock in those gains regardless of what happens with the new Trump administration rule.

He spoke after the Department of Health and Human Services announced a final policy Friday that permits any employers who assert a good-faith religious objection to paying for contraceptives through their insurance plans to be exempt from the mandate the Obama administration created under the Affordable Care Act.

That previous rule had sparked years of legal battles, including the Little Sisters’ challenge. Their case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices last year sent it back to lower courts, demanding the judges try to find an accommodation for the nuns and other religious nonprofits such as hospitals or universities whose faith objects to contraceptive use.

An injunction has been protecting the religious organizations in the meantime.

The new rule is broad, covering anyone — including religious nonprofits like the nuns — who object.

But Mr. Rienzi said the Little Sisters and other similar groups still want a final permanent injunction from the court to protect them from future litigation.

“We will go back to those courts and say the government has issued a new rule, saying what it was doing was illegal,” Mr. Rienzi said. “The rule is not the end of the litigation.”

Minutes after the new rule was announced Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging it. The organization, along with the Service Employee International Union-United Health Care Workers West, argue that the new rule penalizes women who have come to rely on cost-free access to birth control.

“The Trump Administration is forcing women to pay for their boss’ religious beliefs,” said Brigitte Amiri, an attorney with the ACLU. “We’re filing this lawsuit because the federal government cannot authorize discrimination against women in the name of religion or otherwise.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights also said it is thinking about fighting the rule in court, because it will cause thousands of women to lose birth control coverage.

“An employer or university can’t be allowed to use religious or moral beliefs to prevent a woman from planning her future and her family. The Center for Reproductive Rights is prepared to fight these discriminatory and unconstitutional restrictions in court,” said Nancy Northup, the organization’s president and CEO.


• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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