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Religious groups continue to appeal NY’s abortion mandate

New York Courthouse

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J-P Mauro - published on 04/19/24

After the Supreme Court instructed New York to reconsider the narrow exceptions to its abortion mandate, a lawsuit brought by religious groups is back in court.

A diverse coalition of religious groups is once again challenging New York State’s abortion mandate. The case, which already went before the Supreme Court in 2021, is back in NYS appellate court after the High Court reversed the rulings of the lower courts and instructed them to reconsider the case. 

According to a press release from Becket Law, one of the firms representing the plaintiffs, the suit seeks to counter the mandate, which requires employers to cover abortions in their employee health insurance plans.

While the mandate initially included exceptions for religious organizations, pressure from pro-abortion advocates led lawmakers to revise the mandate, narrowing the qualifications for the exception. 

Under the revised mandate, religious groups only qualify for the exception if they both primarily teach religion and primarily serve and hire those who share their faith. This language appears to instruct religious groups to serve only those of their own faith; many religious groups who seek to serve all people, regardless of faith, would not qualify for the exception. This would be the case for nearly any Catholic social service group, including hospitals.

Nuns bankrolling abortion

Becket offers the example of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm and their Teresian Nursing Home, which would not be exempt because they serve the elderly and dying regardless of religious affiliation. Eric Baxter, Vice President and Senior Counsel at Becket stated in a press release:

“Forcing nuns to bankroll abortions because they believe in serving all people is unacceptable. The court should toss this mandate into the dustbin of history and allow these religious groups to focus on what they do best: caring for those in need.”

The lawsuit was brought against the state by a group that includes Anglican and Catholic nuns, Catholic dioceses, Christian churches, and faith-based social ministries that are active in New York, all of whom would be forced to fund their employees’ abortions under the mandate. In April 2021, Becket and Jones Day represented them at the Supreme Court, where the Court reversed the unfavorable rulings of the New York courts, instructing them to reconsider the previous rulings. 

The case is now back before the New York Court of Appeals. Noel J. Francisco, former U.S. Solicitor General and partner-in-charge at Jones Day’s Washington office, represented the religious groups at the hearing on April 15, 2024. Francisco commented in the press release: 

“Religious groups in New York should not be required to provide insurance coverage that violates their deeply held religious beliefs. We asked the court to follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s guidance, protect religious freedom, and make clear that the mandate cannot be applied to this diverse group of religious organizations.”

Learn more about the case at Becket Law

AbortionNew YorkNunsUnited States
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