‘Ginsburg v. Little Sisters of the Poor’

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by Kristine Christlieb  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  May 7, 2020   

Sickbed battle over birth control

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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Fighting past the pain of a gallstone, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made sure she was available for oral arguments in the case that seeks to compel the Little Sisters of the Poor to purchase health insurance that includes coverage for birth control devices and prescriptions.

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President Trump made exemptions to the Obamacare mandate

From her hospital bed on Wednesday, Ginsburg made clear her commitment to the Obamacare mandate, blasting President Trump's religious exemptions, saying they "toss to the wind entirely Congress' instructions that women need and shall have seamless, no-cost, comprehensive coverage." 

The policy, she suggested, forces women "to hunt for other government programs that might cover them."

"And for those who are not covered by Medicaid or one of the other government programs," she added, "they can get contraceptive coverage only from paying out of their own pocket, which is exactly what Congress didn't want to happen."

For nearly eight years the Little Sisters of the Poor have been battling various forces who believe the sisters should provide their employees with insurance that underwrites the cost of contraception. 

For an insurance plan to qualify under the Affordable Care Act it had to include a number of free preventive services, and contraception was one of those services. The Obama administration allowed for certain organizations, like churches and their affiliated ministries, to be exempt, but the guidelines didn't capture religious orders like The Little Sisters of the Poor, who provide services to the elderly poor. 

For nearly eight years the Little Sisters of the Poor have been battling various forces who believe the sisters should provide their employees with insurance that underwrites the cost of contraception. 

Under the Trump administration, the Little Sisters were given relief, but then the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania sued the U.S. government as well as the Little Sisters, saying women were being denied access to contraception. 

A decision for the Little Sisters of the Poor is expected later in the summer.

Committed to Contraception

Ginsburg began to feel pain on Monday and was taken to Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, where she was diagnosed with acute cholecystitis, a condition in which the gallbladder becomes inflamed, usually because a gallstone obstructs the cystic duct.

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She returned home and participated in oral arguments on Tuesday morning from her home, but by Tuesday afternoon she was again in pain. Ginsburg was then admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where doctors employed a non-surgical method often preferred for elderly patients with severe comorbid medical conditions. She was kept overnight and awoke Wednesday to hear oral arguments in the case involving the Little Sisters of the Poor.

BBC News reported that when the Supreme Court justice posed questions, her "voice appeared to be weaker than normal but picked up as the proceedings went on."

She has said she hopes to stay on the bench through 2023.

Ginsburg's health has been carefully followed in the press. At 87, she is the oldest member of the Supreme Court and the longest-serving Democratic appointee. Ginsburg was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and became the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court. She has said she hopes to stay on the bench through 2023.

While she declared herself cancer-free in early January, she has been treated for cancer on four occasions over the last 20 years, twice in the past year. She has been treated for colorectal and lung cancer and twice treated for pancreatic cancer in 2009 and 2019.

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