The Little Sisters of the Poor are expected back in court Thursday to ask for protection against a lawsuit seeking to end the religious order’s exemption from the HHS contraception mandate.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra have each filed lawsuits saying that the sisters should not receive a religious exemption from the 2011 mandate. Twelve other states have also joined the lawsuit, reports the legal nonprofit Becket, which is representing the sisters.

“The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will hear arguments in California v. Little Sisters of the Poor and decide if California and 13 other states can force Catholic nuns to provide services such as the week-after pill in their health care plan in violation of their faith,” Becket said in June 4.

The sisters have been embroiled in a lawsuit since 2011 challenging the federal contraception mandate, issued under the Affordable Care Act, which required that cost-free coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations, and some drugs that can cause abortions be included in employer health plans. The Little Sisters were one of several hundred plaintiffs to file suit against the mandate.

Catholic teaching holds contraception and abortion to be gravely immoral.

“California admits that it has many of its own programs to provide contraceptives to women who want them…And California has not identified a single actual person who had contraceptive coverage but will lose it because of this new rule,” Becket reported.

“Despite all this, California asked a judge to find that the Little Sisters should be forced to comply with the federal mandate (not a state mandate) or pay tens of millions of dollars of government fines.”

Full story at Catholic News Agency.