Bioethics News

US Supreme Court considers religious exemptions to Obamacare

The US Supreme Court has announced that it will hear another case concerning religious exemptions to the prescriptions laid down by Obamacare.

The case in question, a joint action by various religious organisations in the US, will challenge the current ‘opt out’ system outlined in the Affordable Care Act. As it stands, religious organisations can opt out of providing contraceptives by notifying the government in writing. The government will then step in and instruct the organization’s insurer or third-party administrator to provide the contraceptive coverage at no cost to the employers.

But faith-affiliated institutions like Baltimore’s Little Sisters of the Poor Nursing Home object to exemption legislation. They argue that even the signing of a form directing insurers to provide contraceptives is a form of co-operation in a morally illicit government program.

Last July, the Little Sisters of the Poor lost their case against the mandate at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled that the “accommodation” offered by the administration to religious groups like the sisters did not put a “substantial burden” on their religious beliefs and “relieves” them “from complicity” in actions they find objectionable.

Many see the case as misguided. The New York Times published a scathing editorial arguing the plaintiff’s case was ‘fallacious’:

“In a secular society, religious freedom demands respect and accommodation, not a veto over government action that benefits others who believe differently.”  

Others welcomed the supreme court’s decision. Michael Warsaw, chairman and CEO of EWTN Global Catholic Network, said, “Today’s decision by the US Supreme Court to take up the HHS contraceptive mandate cases, including the one filed by the Little Sisters of the Poor, is wonderful news.”

This article is published by Xavier Symons and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.