Pope Francis visits US nuns involved in Obamacare contraception lawsuit

(Reuters) The pope made an unscheduled stop Wednesday to visit the Little Sisters of the Poor and show his support for the nuns' lawsuit against President Obama's health care law.

Pope Francis on Sept. 23, 2015 made an unscheduled stop to a convent of nuns to show his support for their lawsuit against President Barack Obama's health care law. Photo courtesy of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

Pope Francis on Sept. 23, 2015, made an unscheduled stop to a convent of nuns to show his support for their lawsuit against President Barack Obama’s health care law. Photo courtesy of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

WASHINGTON (Reuters) Pope Francis on Wednesday (Sept. 23) made an unscheduled stop to a convent of nuns to show his support for their lawsuit against President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the visit to the convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor was a “brief but symbolic visit.”

Last August, a federal appeals court in Denver put on hold its ruling that the order of Roman Catholic nuns must comply with a contraception mandate in the law, giving the group time to petition the U.S. Supreme Court.


READ: Nuns lose latest court battle to avoid contraception mandate


The nuns had sued under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act over the birth control provision of the 2010 Affordable Health Care Act, widely known as Obamacare.

The sisters argued that the law forces them to provide insurance coverage for their employees to support contraception and sterilization services in violation of their religious beliefs, or face steep fines.

Under a compromise crafted under the health care law, religious groups can opt out of paying for the services, but a third party or an insurance carrier must foot the bill.

The sisters, who operate more than two dozen nursing homes nationwide, said that still makes them complicit in providing artificial birth-control services even if they did not directly pay for them.

Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Lisa Shumaker