10th Circuit Rules Against Little Sisters of the Poor

This week, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Colorado ruled that the Little Sisters of the Poor, as a religious organization that is not exempt from the HHS contraceptive mandate, must comply with the mandate, subject to the government’s accommodation scheme.

The Sisters, who provide health care to the poor at the end of their lives, must now comply with the mandate by filing a form with the Department of Health and Human Services stating that they object to providing sterilization services, contraceptives, and abortifacient drugs in their health plan on the basis of their religious beliefs. The administrator of their health plan must then arrange for the offending services and products to be provided to employees of the ministry at no cost. The court ruled that filing the form did not violate the Little Sister’s free exercise of religion.

It is unclear whether the ruling will be appealed.  In the Hobby Lobby decision, however, the U.S. Supreme Court stated fairly clearly that the accommodation scheme described, if it had been offered to Hobby Lobby, would have accommodated Hobby Lobby’s owners’ religious beliefs.  It is doubtful the court would rule differently for the Little Sisters.

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