On October 6, 2017, Health & Human Services issued a new rule with an updated, broad religious exemption that finally protected religious non-profits like the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns who care for the elderly poor. In its new rule, the government admitted that it broke the law by trying to force the Little Sisters and others to provide services like the week-after pill in their health plans that violated their religious beliefs. That result should mean that the end is near for the Little Sisters’ lawsuit.
However, following the new mandate announcement, several states, including the States of California and Pennsylvania sued the federal government to take away the Little Sisters’ religious exemption. These states admit they have many programs to provide contraceptives to women who want them, and several of the states either have no contraceptive coverage requirement at all or provide broad religious exemptions just like the new rule. Yet the states claim that the Little Sisters must be forced to comply with the federal mandate or pay tens of millions of dollars of government fines.
On November 21, 2017, Becket intervened on behalf of the Little Sisters of the Poor in California and Pennsylvania. Becket has argued all along that the government has many ways to provide services to women who want them as well as protect the Little Sisters.