On Monday at the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado, oral arguments were heard in the court case Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell. The much-discussed case hinges on an Obamacare policy that mandates most employers cover abortion-inducing drugs in their health insurance… a moral issue also causing soul-searching among many American families.
Already elevated once to the U.S. Supreme Court — an emergency appeal that Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted on January 24, 2014 — the nuns’ court case may head back to Washington. Their attorney Daniel Blomberg of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty explains in a Fox News interview with Greta Van Susteren:
“The court displayed a real grasp of the situation,” said Blomberg, whose team defended the nuns’ case in court. “They asked deep, probing questions. Frankly, the government gave them no good reasons why they’re here trying, one year later [after Justice Sotomayor's injunction], to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to violate their religious beliefs.”
All eight attempts by the Obama Administration at an “accommodation” for religious non-profits have unraveled, as these Roman Catholic nuns committed to celibacy continue their legal battle to avoid paying for forms of contraception that cause abortion.
A religious order established in America in 1868, Little Sisters of the Poor today give practical support and personal medical care to more than 13,000 poor elderly people in 13 nations worldwide.
Little Sisters of the Poor assist the frail elderly (Photo: Becket Fund for Religious Liberty)
At a press conference outside the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, Mother Loraine Marie Maguire spoke on behalf of the nuns.
“As Little Sisters of the Poor, we offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to Himself,” she said.
“We have done this for over 175 years because of our faith in God and our vocation,” Mother Loraine continued. ”But now the government demands we choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith. We cannot do that and we should not have to. It is a choice that violates our nation’s historic commitment to ensure that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God’s calling in their lives.”
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty rests its case in part on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). As Jennifer Marshall of The Heritage Foundation explains, “It passed Congress nearly unanimously and was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, with the support of a broad coalition that included organizations from the Southern Baptists to the ACLU.”
“Even if we can’t agree, the American order has given us good tools for agreeing to disagree,” notes Marshall about the bipartisan law which protects religious liberty. “RFRA is one such tool, and we should prize it.”
Mother Loraine puts a fine point on her group’s dilemma: “The government forces us to either violate our conscience — or take millions of dollars for the care of the elderly poor, that we raise by begging, and instead pay fines to the IRS.”
Many Americans are facing this same choice at the individual level, as millions will now receive health coverage under Obamacare after their private insurance plans were cancelled. The moral issue comes in, once again, with abortion coverage. When open enrollment in Obamacare began last month on November 15, new state-exchange websites offered no information on which available plans do not fund abortions.
During a special Joint Session of Congress on September 9, 2009, President Barack Obama explicitly promised that “No federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.” The speech made headlines the next day chiefly because Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted out, “You Lie!” in a departure from usual decorum in Congress.
Five years later, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveals how colossally this promise was broken. The GAO report released September 16 identifies 1,036 insurance plans nationwide that cover elective abortions while still receiving taxpayers’ federal funding.
With existing health insurance lost, what’s a family committed to upholding life to do? The new website ObamacareAbortion.com helps those newly insured navigate their options on state health exchanges.
Based on thousands of contacts to insurance companies nationwide — along with detailed scrutiny by experts at Family Research Council and Charlotte Lozier Institute — this free website allows anyone to access easy-to-understand, detailed information on which insurance plans pro-life families would want to avoid.
It’s a valuable tool to supplement the information available on states’ health exchange websites. Yet it hardly solves the larger problems created by this 2,700 page law, which entangles government deeply into the moral, medical and economic decisions Americans make daily.
Many speculate that the new Congress, taking office in January, will alter the health care law — especially considering President Obama himself has unilaterally changed Obamacare 24 times (thus far). As for the Little Sisters of the Poor, they await a ruling from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals so their life-saving work can continue unimpeded.
“These are complex health policy issues,” says Matt Lockett, Executive Director of Bound4LIFE. “But here’s the bottom line: the new health law is increasing the likelihood of abortions in this nation. We know God calls us to advance a culture of life. While this case winds its way through federal appeals court, believers must make an appeal to Heaven for lives to be saved.”
As part of March for Life 2015, evangelical groups and churches are coming together at the OneVoiceDC prayer event on January 21 to seek God for the ending of abortion — the ultimate human rights injustice of our day.