The Trump administration has indicated that it will continue to defend a provision of the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — requiring employers to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees in a legal challenge brought by religious organizations that are morally opposed to contraception, according to the Washington Post.
The so-called HHS mandate requires employers to cover contraceptive and abortifacient drugs in their health insurance plans. The Little Sisters of the Poor, among other organizations, sued to be granted an exemption from the mandate, arguing that providing such drugs would violate their conscience. Catholic Church teaching prohibits abortion as well as artificial contraception. Evangelical organizations also petitioned for exemptions.
The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which sent it back to lower courts and ordered the federal government to negotiate with the plaintiffs. Despite the change in administrations, the case is still ongoing.
The Washington Post reported that the Justice Department has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for an additional 60 days in order to negotiate with East Texas Baptist University — one of the organizations asking to be exempt from the mandate — as well as other organizations.
Catholic News Agency noted that after Trump was elected, “the plaintiffs challenging the mandate widely expected that the new administration would drop the government’s appeal of the lawsuits, which federal circuit courts may re-examine in the coming months.”
Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told Catholic News Agency that “the government has a chance to do the right thing here. It got it wrong for five years in these cases, almost six years.”
“And they can do the right thing by dropping their appeals that are in favor of the mandate, and admitting that they were wrong on the issue of the contraceptive mandate, as applied to religious non-profits,” Rassbach added.
The Washington Post notes that as a candidate for president, Trump vowed to side with the Little Sisters of the Poor in the case.
“I will make absolutely certain religious orders like The Little Sisters of the Poor are not bullied by the federal government because of their religious beliefs,” Trump wrote in a letter to the Catholic Leadership Conference.