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US Supreme Court Vacates Ruling Against Christian Colleges and Sends Abortion-Pill Mandate Cases Back to the Lower Courts

October 17, 2017

By: Katie Heller

Today, the United States Supreme Court unanimously decided in Zubik v. Burwell  to vacate the ruling against five Christian colleges and many other religious groups and send the seven consolidated cases, which include the Little Sisters of the Poor, back to their respective lower Courts of Appeals for further proceedings. The Court concluded, “Given the gravity of the dispute and the substantial clarification and refinement in the positions of the parties, the parties on remand should be afforded an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.’”

Put simply, the Court is asking the Obama Administration to come to a resolution, which it believes exists, that does not burden the religious organizations but that the government admits would still serve its interests. 

The Court also firmly stated that the government may not enforce the abortion-pill mandate until the issue is resolved.

Alliance Defending Freedom represents five Christian universities whose cases were consolidated with those brought by 32 other plaintiffs, all objecting on religious grounds to providing abortion-inducing or contraceptive drugs through their healthcare plans.

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel David Cortman had this to say about today’s decision:

“Religious organizations have the freedom to peacefully operate according to their beliefs without fear of severe penalties by the government. The Supreme Court was right to protect the Christian colleges and other groups from having to pay fines or fill out forms authorizing the objectionable coverage. The government has many other ways to ensure women are able to obtain these drugs without forcing people of faith to participate in acts that violate their deepest convictions. We look forward to addressing the remaining details as we advance these cases in the lower courts.”

How Did We Get Here?

In 2012, the Obama administration required many employee and student health plans to cover “all FDA-approved contraceptives,” including some that can cause abortions. If a plan sponsor refused to comply, it would face crippling IRS fines.

A number of religious business owners challenged the mandate and prevailed at the U.S. Supreme Court in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell in 2014. The administration created an alternative method of complying with the mandate for non-profit religious organizations that objected to providing contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices as part of their employee and student healthcare coverage. The administration claimed it was addressing religious organizations’ moral objections.

But it did not. The so-called “accommodation” still requires the religious groups to actively participate in the governmental scheme that gives their employees access to the objectionable early-abortion drugs and devices – the very thing these employers object to doing.

To Continue the Fight Against Obamacare, We Need Your Help!
The Court’s decision today signals the continual need to protect religious organizations from being forced to participate in acts that violate their deepest convictions. Alliance Defending Freedom is committed to stand with these five Christian universities until the end. But in order to do so, we need your help! Please continue to be in prayer for the efforts of our legal team and consider supporting them by giving a gift today

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