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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Judge blocks expansion of religious exemptions to contraceptive mandate

A federal judge temporarily blocked the US government from putting into effect new rules that would expand the exemption to the federal contraceptive mandate to the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious employers.

On 13th January, Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. of the US District Court for the Northern District of California granted a preliminary injunction sought by 13 states and the District of Columbia to stop the rules from taking effect on 14th January.

Gilliam said the new rules were “not in accordance with the Affordable Care Act.”

Attorneys with Becket, a religious liberty law firm representing the Little Sisters of the Poor, immediately filed an appeal with the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals based in San Francisco.

The religious order and the March for Life Education and Defense Fund were permitted to join the case as “permissive intervenors.”

The sisters have been in the spotlight for several years because of their moral objection to the Department of Health and Human Services’ requirement that most employers, including religious employers, cover contraceptives, sterilisation and abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plans. The mandate was put in place by HHS under the ACA during the Obama administration.

The Trump administration subsequently introduced rules in October 2017 to expand the exemption to religious employers and presented final rules in November.

Picture: The White House is seen during a snowstorm in the early hours of 14th January. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters).