According to the Washington Post, the Trump administration has suggested that it will continue defending a clause of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, requiring employers to offer contraceptive allowance to their staff members, in a legal case brought forth by religious associations that are severe opponents of contraception.
The HHS mandate, as it is called, obliges employers to provide contraceptive and other abortion related drugs coverage in their health insurance plans. Among several other organizations, The Little Sisters of the Poor filed a lawsuit, asking to be granted an exemption from the HHS mandate. They argued that the provision of such drugs would be in violation of their conscience. While Catholic Church teachings prohibit abortion and artificial contraception, Evangelical organizations also followed suit and filed petitions for exemptions.
Even though the case made its way to the Supreme Court, it was eventually sent back to lower courts. The federal government was also ordered to negotiate with the plaintiffs, but despite the change in administration, the case has not seen any development so far.
The Justice Department has now asked the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for another 60 days, so they can negotiate with East Texas Baptist University as well as other organizations looking for an exemption from the mandate, according to the Washington Post.
Catholic News Agency noted that following Trump election, “the plaintiffs challenging the mandate widely expected that the new administration would drop the government’s appeal of the lawsuits, which federal circuit courts may re-examine in the coming months.”
Deputy General Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Eric Rassbach, told Catholic News Agency that “the government has a chance to do the right thing here. It got it wrong for five years in these cases, almost six years.”
“And they can do the right thing by dropping their appeals that are in favor of the mandate, and admitting that they were wrong on the issue of the contraceptive mandate, as applied to religious non-profits,” Rassbach added.
The Washington Post further noted that during his presidential campaign, Trump promised to be more helpful to the Little Sisters of the Poor in the case.
“I will make absolutely certain religious orders like The Little Sisters of the Poor are not bullied by the federal government because of their religious beliefs,” Trump wrote in a letter to the Catholic Leadership Conference.