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The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops honoured the Little Sisters of the Poor Monday for their stand against the Obama administration’s abortifacient and contraceptive mandate.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston and chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, gave the sisters the 2014 People of Life Award at the annual Diocesan Pro-Life Leadership Conference in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Committee on Pro-Life Activities explained the award and the decision to give it to the Little Sisters of the Poor in a statement Wednesday:

The People of Life Award recognizes Catholics who have answered the call outlined by Pope John Paul II in The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae, 1995), dedicating themselves to pro-life activities and promoting respect for the dignity of the human person. It is bestowed in honor of their significant contributions to the culture of life.

The Little Sisters of the Poor were recognized for their dedication in serving the elderly poor and for doing so with integrity in the face of pressure to compromise their Catholic principles. The Little Sisters are an international congregation of women religious founded 175 years ago who serve 13,000 elderly poor in 31 countries, with 30 nursing homes/assisted living facilities in the United States. The HHS mandate would make the Little Sisters facilitate access to abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraceptives in their employee health plan or face punitive fines. Because they serve and hire persons who are not Catholic, the Little Sisters are not considered a “religious employer.” In September 2013, they filed a class-action lawsuit, Little Sisters of the Poor vs. Sebelius, to persist in their ministry without having to violate their beliefs.

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