From the SFLA Blog

Forced Abortion Coverage Hangs in the Balance As SCOTUS Remands New York Case to Lower Court

Caroline Wharton - 05 Nov 2021


Religious liberty and pro-life supporters are reacting to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), as earlier this week, SCOTUS ordered the top New York court to reconsider the religious freedom case, Diocese of Albany v. Emami. This case has galvanized both the pro-life and pro-abortion communities, and the decision to send it back to the NY court has given pro-lifers hope for a decision in their favor.  


Case Background

The Diocese of Albany v. Emami case began after New York State mandated that employers cover abortions in their health insurance plans for employees. This sounded an alarm for many different religious groups and, including the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. The Diocese asked the New York courts to acknowledge its religious liberty in the face of regulations that violated and betrayed its beliefs about life—beliefs so strong they are included in the Diocese’s mission statement 



As the sanctity of life is one of  the most deeply- held principles of the Catholic Church, the compulsion to pay for violent, life-ending procedures posed an inadmissible toll on their conscience and religious freedom. However, the New York courts were unsympathetic to these freedomsforcing the Diocese to appeal to the Supreme Court for help.   


Summary of SCOTUS Review

After being sent to the Supreme Court, SCOTUS ordered that the case be reconsidered by the top New York court, declining to take it on themselves. This decision was made in light of an earlier case, Fulton v. Philadelphia; a case in which the Court sided with a Catholic charity who had been refused a municipal contract because the charity refused to screen same-sex couples. The Court ruled that there had been a violation of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.  


Justices known for their strong pro-life positions disagreed with the majority’s decision to decline Diocese of Albany v. Emami. Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito said they would have chosen to take up the case for argument.  



What’s Being Said

Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger, a bishop of the Diocese of Albany, uncle of late SFLA team member Jon Scharfenberger, expressed extreme gratitude for the Supreme Court’s actions and said in a statement,

We are confident that now that the Court has ordered the case remanded for reconsideration in light of last year’s Fulton v. Philadelphia decision, the unconstitutional regulatory action taken by New York State will ultimately be completely overturned as incompatible with our country’s First Amendment guarantee of religious liberty.”  


Students for Life of America president, Kristan Hawkins, said,

The decision to send this case back to the state gives the New York court system another chance to fix their mistaken ruling against the Diocese of Albany. No one should be forced to do something against their conscience or religious beliefs, and that is exactly what was happening in the ruling of the Diocese of Albany v. Emami case. New York State, fix your mistake.”  


Moving Forward

Even as we are excited about the potential for a positive ruling on this case, the Pro-Life Generation must not back down. We continue to call for the protection of vulnerable preborn lives from abortion and affirm the right of pro-life advocates to refuse to participate in abortion violence on religious freedom grounds.  This is the time to praise the Supreme Court for their faithfulness to the Constitution and to call for New York courts to listen to the wisdom of the High Court.  


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