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Attorney General Attempts to Silence Nuns

One of the Little Sisters of the Poor caring for an elderly woman.
One of the Little Sisters of the Poor caring for an elderly woman. (The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty )
The Little Sisters of the Poor and their hard-fought rights will be on trial Thursday, Dec. 14, but the Sisters will be outside the courthouse because of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro's attempt to silence them.

Shapiro is suing to take away the Sisters' religious exemption from a Health and Human Services rule. In early October, HHS issued a new rule that protects the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious non-profits from providing services in their health care plan that violate their faith like the week-after pill.

The Little Sisters' four-year legal ordeal was close to an end, but now the state of Pennsylvania is suing HHS to take away the Little Sisters' religious exemption. Worse yet, Pennsylvania successfully won a court order keeping the Little Sisters from joining the case to defend their rights. A similar hearing took place on Tuesday in Oakland, Calif., where nearly 50 people rallied outside the courthouse in support of the Little Sisters.

Represented by Becket, the Little Sisters will speak up outside the courthouse to ensure that they can continue their vital ministry of caring for the elderly poor, as they have for over 175 years, without violating their faith.


This case isn't about ensuring all Americans can access contraception. The administration has already exempted many secular corporations like Exxon and Pepsi, cities like New York and the military family plan from including free contraception and non-surgical abortion in their health care plans. One in three Americans is not even covered by the mandate HHS is fighting so hard to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to follow. HHS could much better meet its goal of providing access to contraception if it provided it as an add-on in the health care exchange for all women instead of fighting so hard to force the Little Sisters to offer it through their religiously-protected health plan.

The Little Sisters Trusted President Obama

The Little Sisters of the Poor could have gone the route of many big corporations by grandfathering their plan to avoid the new requirements, but they trusted the president's promise to protect their religious beliefs. Now, HHS is telling the Little Sisters they will be fined $70 million/year unless they change their health care plan to start offering the ella pill, which ends a pregnancy one week after intercourse.

Reasonable Religious Concern

Regardless of one's position on abortion, we can all understand why Catholic nuns would object to including free access to a pill that terminates a pregnancy in their health care plan. The Little Sisters' religious calling is to care for the elderly poor, and that is where they want to spend their time. They do not agree with abortion and hold to Catholic teaching on contraception, but they are not trying to prevent the government from offering these services to women who want them.

Common-Sense Solution

There is a simple solution that addresses the Little Sisters' moral concern and the government's stated goal: Offer these services as an add-on through ACA's health care exchange like dental insurance and other add-ons. That is what the exchanges were created to do, and this would provide access to all women in America (i.e., those in religious plans and secular ones HHS has already exempted). This is a much better solution than continuing to try to force only religious groups with an objection to these services to offer them.

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