After the Little Sisters of the Poor won a major Supreme Court case this week, Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden, a self-professed Catholic, pledged to take them back to court to try to force them to pay for abortion and contraceptives under a requirement imposed by Obamacare.
The Supreme Court this week issued a 7-2 ruling affirming that the Little Sisters and other religious groups cannot be forced to pay for insurance that covers contraceptives and chemical abortifacients if doing so would violate their religious beliefs.
In response to the ruling, Biden issued a statement:
“As disappointing as the Supreme Court’s ruling is, there is a clear path to fixing it: electing a new President who will end Donald Trump’s ceaseless attempts to gut every aspect of the Affordable Care Act. If I am elected, I will restore the Obama-Biden policy that existed before the Hobby Lobby ruling,” referencing the landmark 2014 decision in which the Supreme Court affirmed religious freedom and conscience protections for closely-held companies that objected to paying for contraceptive and abortifacient coverage.
This week’s case was the second time the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns who care for impoverished elderly people at dozens of homes across the country, were in the Supreme Court over the issue. In 2016, the Little Sisters were a party to Zubik v. Burwell, in which the court unanimously reversed eight circuit court rulings against religious groups who objected to Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate, but sent the issue back down to lower courts for further litigation.
When President Trump took office in 2017, his administration issued rules to strengthen religious organizations’ exemptions from the contraceptive mandate.
Not a single employee of the Little Sisters ever came forward with an objection to their position, but Democrat attorneys general from two heavily Catholic states – Pennsylvania and New Jersey – sued the Trump administration over the new rules. A federal court agreed with the attorneys general, so the Little Sisters took the lead in appealing the case to the Supreme Court.
This week’s majority opinion, authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, affirmed that the Trump administration had properly applied the law in strengthening the religious freedom protections and lauded the Little Sisters for over 150 years of “faithful service and sacrifice, motivated by a religious calling to surrender all for the sake of their brother.”
But Joe Biden won’t rest until Catholic nuns are forced to take money they would otherwise use to serve the poor and instead pay for contraceptives and abortifacients.
It may seem strange that Biden would take such a hard line on the issue, given that Biden “argued internally for a stronger exemption than what was in the initial rule” when the Obama administration was formulating Obamacare in 2009.
According to the New Yorker, Biden later “objected to an Administration plan to require Catholic hospitals and other institutions to cover contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act, saying that it would cost them working-class votes.
The Little Sisters’ legal battle may not yet be over, as Justice Samuel Alito pointed out in his concurring opinion because there is still an administrative law avenue open that the Democrat attorneys’ general could use to continue to challenge the Little Sisters.
If Biden wins in 2020, his administration could oppose the Little Sisters in a future court battle, or simply revoke the Trump administration’s religious freedom protections, forcing the Little Sisters back to court a third time.
Biden frequently touts his upbringing in Scranton, Pennsylvania, a blue-collar city built by Catholic immigrants from Ireland and Italy. But whatever sympathies for religious freedom that remained from his upbringing appear to have vanished.
This is the second issue important to Catholics on which Biden has shifted to the left during his 2020 bid for the presidency, the first being his decision to oppose the Hyde Amendment, which prevents direct federal taxpayer funding of abortion. Biden had long supported the amendment even though he was pro-abortion, but flip-flopped last year.
Biden’s strong support for legal abortion led one Catholic priest in South Carolina to deny him communion while Biden was campaigning there last year.