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Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor should lift her temporary injunction issued Dec. 31 blocking a requirement that an order of Colorado nuns fill out paperwork to get the constitutional protection they say they want - an exemption from the health care law's provision that insurance plans for women include free access to contraceptives.
Acting on the recommendations of a panel of health experts as to what preventative services the Affordable Care Act should mandate, the Obama administration included free access to birth control. Removing cost barriers to birth control reduces unintended pregnancies along with the health and societal costs associated with them, while lowering abortions.
This newspaper, while backing the approach, criticized the initial rule for a failure to properly exempt religious groups, most particularly the Catholic Church, that oppose the use of contraceptives on religious grounds. The administration quickly fixed the problem, which makes this latest case perplexing.
Churches and most religious organizations are fully exempt from the requirement. Religious affiliations with a broader mission and that employ people of many faiths - such as Catholic-affiliated universities and hospitals - are not required to manage or pay for such coverage. Instead, the group's private insurer shoulders that cost or a third-party administrator handles it.
The Colorado order, the Little Sisters of the Poor in Colorado, is such a group, operating convalescent homes. However, the Justice Department Friday filed court papers stating the Little Sisters do not have to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees at all, even by way of a third party. That is because, as with many Catholic organizations, it self-insures using a religious affiliated administrator - Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust.
The violation of their religious rights, according to the Little Sisters, is that they have to partake in the process by signing to achieve an exemption to a provision the government, in their opinion, has no busines mandating to begin with.
That's more than a reach. Lift the injunction.