Supreme Court turns away case on whether religious charities must provide coverage for abortions
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court declined Monday to take a case on whether religious charities must provide insurance coverage for abortions, instructing a state court that had ruled against the charities to reconsider its decision.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany asserted that New York's requirement, approved in 2017, violates its freedom to practice religion without interference – a First Amendment right that has received considerable attention from the high court in recent months.
New York's top court had ruled against the charities, but the Supreme Court said Monday that state courts should reconsider that decision in light of a major ruling it handed down earlier this year. That case involved a Catholic charity in Philadelphia that declined to screen same-sex couples as foster parents. The Supreme Court backed the charity in that case, asserting that the city had infringed its First Amendment right.
The Supreme Court's decision is a win for the charities and it means their case will continue.
New York's mandate includes an exception for certain religious entities, such as those that seek to promote religious values and that workers who share the religious tenets of the organization. But some groups, such as Catholic Charities or non-profit nursing homes run by nuns, won't necessarily be covered by those exceptions.
The case arrived at the Supreme Court at a time when the justices have looked favorably on religious freedom claims, including the decision involving the Catholic charity in Philadelphia.
More:Abortion rights groups ask Supreme Court to uphold Roe amid Texas ban fallout
In that case, the court declined to overrule a 1990 decision that could have made it easier for religious entities to challenge a broader set of regulations. The appeal by the Albany diocese asked the Supreme Court to take another look at that precedent.
"This regulation imposes enormous burdens on the countless religious entities opposed to abortion as a matter of longstanding and deep-seated religious conviction," the religious groups told the court in legal briefs filed earlier this year after New York State courts upheld the coverage regulation.
New York has countered that the exception included in the regulation mirrors the language used in other contexts for years. And, the state told the court in August, there is no evidence health insurance plans that cover abortions cost more money than those that do not.
"The record thus contains no evidence that by purchasing policies that include the subject coverage, a purchaser funds, even indirectly, medically necessary abortion services," the state told the court.
In 2014, a 5-4 majority of the court ruled that companies cannot be forced to offer insurance coverage for certain birth control methods they equate with abortion. The court has added three justices nominated by President Donald Trump since then.