WASHINGTON — A U.S. Supreme Court justice granted temporary relief late Wednesday to two religious groups in Pennsylvania that challenged a compromise to the abortion pill mandate in Obamacare, which they state still requires them to facilitate a “moral evil.”
The evangelical Geneva College of Beaver Falls, and the Roman Catholic dioceses in Erie and Pittsburgh, along with their affiliated organizations, had sued the Obama administration last year out of their belief that the government’s attempt at exempting them from the mandate still required them to provide abortion-inducing drugs for staff.
As previously reported, the University of Notre Dame had filed a similar lawsuit over the compromise, which would require the organizations to submit exemption forms so that their insurance company would pick up the tab for the drugs instead of the institution.
But the entities argued in court that transferring the responsibility to pay for the drugs doesn’t assuage their concerns, as they would still be helping their employees obtain the abortion-inducing medications.
“[S]igning such a form or letter facilitates moral evil,” they wrote in legal briefs. “This is true whether or not applicants pay for the objectionable coverage.”
Until Wednesday, the federal courts disagreed with the groups, stating that the requirement did not “substantially burden” their free exercise of religion.
“First, the self-certification form does not trigger or facilitate the provision of contraceptive coverage because coverage is mandated to be otherwise provided by federal law,” Judge Marjorie Rendell, wife of former Pa. Gov. Ed Rendell, wrote for the panel.
“Federal law, rather than any involvement by the appellees in filling out or submitting the self-certification form, creates the obligation of the insurance issuers and third-party administrators to provide coverage for contraceptive services,” she said.
But on Wednesday night, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito granted a temporary reprieve to Geneva College and the dioceses, and ordered the Obama administration to provide a response to the legal appeal by Monday.
Last month, the court had likewise remanded the Notre Dame ruling by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, ordering it to reconsider its decision in light of the high court’s 2014 Hobby Lobby opinion. Alito had written the opinion on behalf of the majority last June.
Houston Baptist University and East Texas Baptist University are among those who are also set to have their cases heard in federal court.
“We oppose taking life of the unborn from the womb,” Houston Baptist University President Robert Sloan told reporters. “Having to provide these kinds of drugs or protocols that destroy the life of a fertilized egg—we’re just opposed to it. Whether a person agrees with that view or not, it’s our sincerely held belief. We believe it to our core.”