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 AlitoHow religious liberty was distorted in the age of COVID-19 Supreme Court weighs religious accommodations during executions Supreme Court seems wary of NY gun limits MORE, Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchRoe redux: Is 'viability' still viable as a constitutional doctrine? How religious liberty was distorted in the age of COVID-19 Federal judge in Texas rules in favor of religious businesses over LGBTQ discrimination claims MORE and Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasHow religious liberty was distorted in the age of COVID-19 Supreme Court wrestles with limits on digital billboard ads, free speech Winsome Sears: The latest Black conservative to make liberals nervous MORE had voted in favor of taking up the case.

ADVERTISEMENT

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."