Andrew Harnik / AP
The Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with the Trump administration in its effort to allow employers who cite religious or moral objections to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women as required by the Affordable Care Act.
The high court on Wednesday ruled 7-2 that the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic charity, does not have to provide free contraception to its employees.
“For over 150 years, the Little Sisters have engaged in faithful service and sacrifice, motivated by a religious calling to surrender all for the sake of their brother,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for a majority of the court.
“But for the past seven years, they — like many other religious objectors who have participated in the litigation and rulemakings leading up to today’s decision — have had to fight for the ability to continue in their noble work without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented.
“In accommodating claims of religious freedom, this Court has taken a balanced approach, one that does not allow the religious beliefs of some to overwhelm the rights and interests of others who do not share those beliefs. Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree,” she wrote.
Birth control has been a topic of contention since the law was passed.
Initially, churches, synagogues and mosques were exempt from the contraceptive coverage requirement.
The Obama administration also created a way by which religiously affiliated organizations including hospitals, universities and charities could opt out of paying for contraception, but women on their health plans would still get no-cost birth control.
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That opt-out process was the subject of a 2016 Supreme Court case, but the court, with only eight justices at the time because of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, didn’t decide the issue. It instead sent both sides back to see if they could work out a compromise.
After the Trump administration took over, officials announced a rule change that allows many companies and organization with religious or moral objections to opt out of covering birth control without providing an alternate avenue for coverage. The change was blocked by courts after New Jersey and Pennsylvania challenged it.
But the Supreme Court ruling means that the administration acted properly when it made the change.
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