A staple of sports cliches (a realm crowded with cliches) is to refer to an overmatched team as “The Little Sisters of the Poor”.
The Little Sisters of the Poor run a nonprofit Colorado nursing home and hospice and therefore ought to be exempt under what the White House calls its “accommodation” for religiously affiliated institutions like parochial schools, hospitals and charities.
The problem is that to qualify under the “accommodation,” religious organizations must sign a legal contract with their insurer certifying that the religious organizations refuse to subsidize contraceptive services. “This certification is an instrument under which the plan is operated,” the contract notes, then informs the insurer of its “obligations” under the rules.
Those include a command that the insurer “shall provide” contraception to all enrollees, supposedly independently and for free. The political point of the accommodation was to pretend that the costs of contraception or abortifacients are nominally carried by a third-party corporation, but the insurers are really only the middle men. The Little Sisters thus argue that signing the certification contract directs others to provide birth control in their place and makes them complicit.
Boiled down, the Justice Department’s legal response on Friday was: Shut up and sign the form. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argues the Sisters’ claims have “no legal basis.”
The Little Sisters can’t be bought off, and they can’t be intimidated.
Speaking at a fundraiser for NARAL Pro-Choice America in October 2011, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius declared that those of us arguing for conscience rights in the face of Obamacare were not only backward but belligerent:
They don’t just want to go after the last 18 months, they want to roll back the last 50 years in progress women have made in comprehensive health care in America.
We’ve come a long way in women’s health over the last few decades, but we are in a war.
Much commentary today — and many of the reporter’s questions — insist, as the administration has for a while now, that the Sisters have no religious-liberty problem: sign a form, all’s well. Except it’s not, and the Sisters won’t. Being told it has to green-light insurance coverage is not religious freedom in America. This accommodation/arbitrary exemption/exception business is for the birds.
Nancy Pelosi once threaten to “deem” Obamacare passed; Obama promised you could keep your doctor and your insurance plan; the Sisters are told they won’t get their precious little hands dirty with abortifacients. But they are buying none of it. I can’t say they’ll win—we are very far gone in terms of individual and religious liberties—but they won’t lose. If you keep your conscience, you never lose your soul.
That’s why the Sister will survive and America is very much in doubt.