HIGGINS: Sotomayor ruling a White House blessing in disguise

The Sotomayor ruling looks like a defeat for the White House, but is it? Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON, January 2, 2014 — Yesterday the Catholic group Little Sisters of the Poor was handed a victory over the Obama Administration. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor stayed the mandate that religious order pay for contraceptives despite faith based objections. The Catholic Church, as well as other religious organizations who oppose the mandate, have been fighting to have that particular piece of the law overturned since the act was passed in 2010.

Some see this as a blow to the Obama Administration and the Affordable Care Act. It is not.


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Though the majority of Catholics in this country are Democrats, the Council of Bishops and many other Catholic Institutions have railed against the Obama Administration for the ACA requirement that faith-based organizations provide birth control, including some that can be considered abortifacients, to employees as part of their insurance, regardless of religious principle.

Catholics are against birth control and abortion. Catholic groups have been a driving force behind calls to reform the ACA, pumping money, time, effort, and their political clout into the fight against the law. They have been a thorn in the side of the Obama Administration ever since the ACA was passed.

With this injunction in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the door has been opened for other Catholic institutions to make moves to obtain similar exemptions of their own.

The ACA is seen as a means to insure the poorest and sickest of Americans. Helping the poor and sick is something that the Catholics, and indeed most Christian groups like to do. Because the reason for their opposition to this law removed from the table, Catholic groups have no reason to continue the fight. To continue would be detrimental to their own causes and to their own national image.


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If you can’t beat ‘em, take away their reason to fight.

It is a brilliant move. Catholic groups now have a ruling in their favor that raises the odds that this particular part of the legislation will be overturned. If the ACA is no longer a threat to the religious liberty of Christian organizations, then perhaps they will pick up their ball and go home.

That is what is riding on this; the Catholic Church will cease opposition to the ACA if this ruling is expanded to lift from it entirely the obligation to provide contraception in any way.

The Obama Administration has already said that the law did not apply to the Little Sisters of the Poor anyway, but President Obama will put up a fight if there is any attempt to expand Sotomayor’s stay by exempting faith-based organizations across the board from the contraception mandate. His supporters will insist that the law demands equal application, and many will not believe them, but this helps the Obama Administration.


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The president and his allies are telling the Catholic Church to pipe down, you have won your little piece, you have your exception, now please be on your way.

Is it right? An emphatic “hell no” is one response that comes to mind.

Is it a good move? An emphatic “hell yes.”

President Obama will make political gain out of this. A piece of his signature healthcare law has been threatened, but now he can look like the magnanimous, First Amendment supporting leader of the free World and graciously allow the Little Sisters of the Poor to keep their victory. He will win back the support of some wayward Catholic Democrats, and he will fill the 24 hour news channels with stories of his humility, understanding, and tolerance. The liberal news loves tolerance.

Many in the conservative media-sphere will see this as the part of the end of Obamacare. Others will argue that repeal is right around the corner. The repeal/defund Obamacare juggernaut will keep on moving forward!

Well, how is it going to keep moving forward if one of its largest opponents no longer has a dog in the fight?

That is exactly what this move does: It allows other Catholic organizations a way out. It has been detrimental to the Democrats that a large portion of their base has so ardently and harshly turned against them over mandated contraception coverage, so the Obama Administration will make it a non-issue. They did it with unions, they did it with Congress, and they can do it for Catholic institutions.

This ruling is a small move, pertaining to just the Denver-based Little Sisters of the Poor. But it has wide ranging consequences, and while the Obama Administration may put up a token resistance to this particular ruling, they will happily watch the Catholics strike their camp and leave the field, having accomplished what they came to do.


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Conor Higgins

Conor Higgins has a B.A. from Catholic University in DC in American History, with a concentration on guerrilla warfare on American soil. He has an M.A. in US History from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, with a concentration on Cold War insurgency. He believes that all news and all information should be taken with a grain of salt, and implores people everywhere to seek news stories everywhere. 

Higgins is also a fervent believer in the traditional role of media, in terms of acting as a balanced check on government policies and individuals regardless of party affiliation. But in the end, he believes that no matter how heated an issue is, there is nothing that can't be discussed over a smoke and some whiskey. 

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