WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued an order late Dec. 31, temporarily halting enforcement of the contraceptive mandate against the Denver-based Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged only hours before the Affordable Care Act began to take effect.
Sotomayor instructed the administration to respond by 10am Friday to her order. Several Catholic organizations, including the Archdiocese of Washington, the Diocese of Nashville, Tenn., The Catholic University of America and the Michigan Catholic Conference, previously submitted a request that the mandate be blocked until their arguments against it were heard, Fox News reported.
On Jan. 1, lawyer Noel Francisco stated on behalf of the Catholic groups, “A regulatory mandate will expose numerous Catholic organizations to draconian fines unless they abandon their religious convictions and take actions that facilitate access to abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization for their employees and students.”
“We defer to the Department of Justice on litigation matters, but remain confident that our final rules strike the balance of providing women with free contraceptive coverage while preventing nonprofit religious employers with religious objections to contraceptive coverage from having to contract, arrange, pay or refer for such coverage,” a White House official said.
Sotomayor’s court order blocking the mandate’s enforcement was issued shortly after Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, released a letter he wrote to President Barack Obama, asking that the president exempt Church ministries from the mandate while the Supreme Court considers whether the HHS mandate violates religious freedom.
Wrote Archbishop Kurtz, “I understand that legal issues in these cases will ultimately be settled by the Supreme Court. In the meantime, however, many religious employers have not obtained the temporary relief they need in time to avoid being subjected to the HHS mandate beginning Jan. 1. I urge you, therefore, to consider offering temporary relief from this mandate, as you have for so many other individuals and groups facing other requirements under the ACA.”