In 2013’s Final Hours, Sotomayor Issues Temp Stay On Contraceptive Mandate

Yesterday Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a temporary stay on enforcement of the contraceptive coverage requirements in the Affordable Care Act (aka. Obamacare). Acting on a request from Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged, a Denver-based organization of Catholic nuns, the block applies to a group of Roman Catholic nonprofits subscribed to health coverage from the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust.

Per the compromise developed last year by the Department of Health and Human Services, religiously affiliated organizations such as the Little Sisters are not legally obligated to pay for or administer coverage of birth control under the ACA. Instead, insurers pay for the contraception coverage and are reimbursed. In this way religiously affiliated employers do not pay for the birth control benefit but their employees are still able to access it if they so choose. All employers have to do is sign the out-out form — but this, apparently, is still too much to ask. Hence the lawsuit.

With the clock ticking down before the contraceptive mandate went into effect on January 1, Justice Sotomayor signed the order to prevent its full implementation. Hours later she stood before an estimated one million people in Times Square to lead the countdown and drop the ball signaling the start of the new year.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor prepares to push the Waterford crystal button that signals the descent of the New Year's Eve Ball. Via Daily Mail.

Couldn’t you think of a better way to spend the last day of 2013, Justice Sotomayor? Maybe clean out your freezer? Flip your mattress? Rotate your tires? Image via Daily Mail.

Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood noted, “The Affordable Care Act ensures that [people] can access birth control without co-pays no matter where they work, just like any other kind of preventive care.” Contraceptive coverage helps people plan their families and take control of their lives.

Are the Little Sisters not aware that people might want to use birth control for medical reasons other than contraception? And even if every single one of their hundreds of workers said they did not need or want birth control, shouldn’t they be given same set of options as everyone else?

Government officials have until Friday morning to respond. From there, the temporary stay will be in place until the Court has had an opportunity to review all of the legal filings. The Supreme Court is expected to make its final ruling on the larger issue this summer.

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Laura Mandanas

Laura Mandanas is a Filipina American living in Boston. By day, she works as an industrial engineer. By night, she is beautiful and terrible as the morn, treacherous as the seas, stronger than the foundations of the Earth. All shall love her and despair. Follow her: @LauraMWrites.

Laura has written 210 articles for us.


  1. I’m a bit confused by this, as I thought Sotomayor was on the Good Side? And I didn’t know U.S. Supreme Court justices could make these kinds of decisions independently. But I guess because it’s only a temporary stay it doesn’t need to be a majority decision?

    On a lighter note, I’m enjoying the fact that an organization of Catholic nuns shares their name with a notable LGBTQ bookstore in Vancouver.

  2. Sotomayor is in charge of the replies court and it’s up to her if she wants to the Supreme court to hear the case.

    I did write an awesome paper about her in my Women’s studies class. It was about how the white rich men were bringing her down and wanting her in the Supreme Court.

  3. Yoooooooo can you maybe change the title of this article cause I nearly had a heart attack thinking she “Blocked Obamacare” in it’s entirety, which is not at all the case… she didn’t even block the entire contraception coverage mandate, she gave a small group of people a temporary exception until their case is settled. Like, it’s not ideal, hopefully the Court will uphold the requirement and this will have been for nothing, but damn, I thought this was SO much worse based on the title!

    • Feedback received! Thank you for pointing that out. I didn’t anticipate that the title would be read that way, and it definitely isn’t what I meant. I’ve updated the headline.

  4. First, Sotomayor did not “drop the ball on women’s health” or “block Obamacare.” She granted a temporary stay to a small group of celebate nuns that could expire as soon as 10am tomorrow, when reply briefs are due.

    Second, Sotomayor is a consumate badass of seriously epic proportions and maybe we should think harder before ripping in to one of our very best advocates who is destined to have the greatest impact on the rights of women in this country second only to (the notorious) RBG (praise be her name).

  5. This is a misleading article! She only stopped the contraceptive requirement for the Little Sisters of the Poor organization. Not the entire contraceptive policy. Little Sisters is claiming that they are indeed a religious organization, but lack the proper paperwork for proof. Sotomayor is giving them time to give the court the proper documentation so they can be exempt from providing contraceptive due to their religious beliefs.

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