Washington D.C., May 6, 2020 / 11:08 am
During a week in which the Supreme Court heard arguments via telephone for the first time, the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor came back before the justices on Wednesday.
The court decided to hold oral arguments via conference call as Washington, D.C., is under a stay-at-home order and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends gatherings of no more than 10 people during the coronavirus pandemic.
Oral arguments in the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, originally scheduled to be held in-person at the Court on April 29, were rescheduled and held remotely on May 6.
Justices heard from attorneys representing the Trump administration, the Little Sisters, and the state of Pennsylvania, as the nuns were back at the Supreme Court four years after their case against the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate was first considered.
“For nearly a decade, we have been in a battle for the soul of our ministry,” said Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor, in a telephonic press conference after the arguments.
“We could not comply with the mandate. To do so would undermine our most important belief: that all life is valuable,” she said. “We cannot hold the hands of the elderly dying, while at the same time facilitating the ending of unborn life.”
The case dates back nearly a decade when, in 2011, the Obama administration finalized rules requiring employers to offer cost-free contraceptives, sterilizations, and emergency birth control in employee health plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Later, the administration announced an “accommodation” for objecting religious non-profits that involved them notifying the government of their objection to providing the contraceptive coverage; the government would then direct their insurer or third-party plan administrator to provide the coverage.