The Little Sisters of the Poor are heading back to court to defend themselves against the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services mandate to provide contraception, yet again. In an unusual political move, Pennsylvania and California sued the Little Sisters, demanding the same group who won at the Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell provide contraceptives in their state.
In early October, HHS issued a new rule that protects religious non-profits like the Little Sisters of the Poor from providing anything like contraception that would violate their religious beliefs. In a press release, Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor, said: “Sadly Josh Shapiro and Xavier Becerra [attorneys general in Pennsylvania and California, respectively] think attacking nuns is a way to score political points. These men may think their campaign donors want them to sue nuns, but our guess is most taxpayers disagree. No one needs nuns in order to get contraceptives, and no one needs these guys reigniting the last administration’s divisive and unnecessary culture war.”
In a phone call to media, Rienzi took the time to further explain the situation, saying that once Little Sisters won their right to be excepted from the mandate in Burwell, “That should have been the end of a long and unnecessary and divisive culture war. We have a lot of problems, but figuring out how to deliver contraceptives without nuns should not be one of them. ... Even the federal government, under the Obama administration, openly admitted they had many other ways to deliver contraceptives without nuns, and they didn’t need every employer to do it.”
On the call, I asked how the states were even able to sue the organization, given the Supreme Court’s ruling on the matter. Rienzi said it was merely “political grandstanding.” In a follow-up email, Rienzi explained “This is a pretty unusual situation. It’s similar to a collateral attack — filing a second lawsuit to challenge what has already been decided elsewhere. The protection is, and should be, to let the people from the old lawsuit intervene and defend their rights in the new one.”
Let’s hope for the Little Sisters' sake, these frivolous lawsuits end swiftly and decisively so they can continue their good work.
Nicole Russell is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a journalist in Washington, D.C., who previously worked in Republican politics in Minnesota. She was the 2010 recipient of the American Spectator's Young Journalist Award.
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