Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to New York abortion rule

The Supreme Court on Monday chose not to hear a legal challenge from religious groups against a New York rule requiring most employers in the state to fund abortion services through their workers' health care plans.

The court ordered the case to be sent back to a New York state appeals court, which had upheld the regulation, and re-examined in light of another recent high-profile religious freedom case.

In a brief order issued Monday, the Supreme Court noted that Justices Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoIt's up to America's state courts to rescue democracy Supreme Court sides with murder defendant in major evidentiary ruling Steve Bannon's Supreme Court? MORE, Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchSupreme Court to revisit part of Native American land decision in Oklahoma The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks Sotomayor, Gorsuch issue statement denying tensions over masks MORE and Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasAre the legal walls closing in on Donald Trump? It's up to America's state courts to rescue democracy Supreme Court sides with murder defendant in major evidentiary ruling MORE had voted in favor of taking up the case.

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The lawsuit was brought by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and other religious groups, which argued that the requirement that they fund employees' "medically necessary abortions" violated the First Amendment.

The rule provides exemptions for certain religious organizations, but those with broad charitable aims would not qualify.

The Supreme Court on Monday directed the New York appellate court to give the case further consideration following a decision last year in which the justices unanimously sided with a Catholic foster service's legal challenge against the city of Philadelphia over a rule prohibiting discrimination against same-sex couples looking to become foster parents.

In that case, the court found narrow grounds to rule that the organization Catholic Social Services (CSS) should not be denied an exemption to the non-discrimination rule.

"CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the decision. "The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless the agency agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny and violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment."