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Pro-Life Groups Blast Revisions to Obama Abortion-HHS Mandate

by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 2/1/13 4:22 PM

National

Leading pro-life groups don’t have much good to say about the proposed changes the HHS department announced today to the Obamacare mandate that forces religious groups and religiously-run companies to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs.

The Christian Medical Association (CMA), the nation’s largest faith-based association of physicians, today called the administration’s policy announcement regarding its contraceptives and sterilization mandate “unacceptable,” noting that the ruling still flouts the First Amendment.

CMA CEO Dr. David Stevens said, “This latest version of the contraceptives and sterilization mandate remains unacceptable. Since when does the government get to pick and choose which groups will get to enjoy First Amendment protections? Our founders intended the First Amendment to protect every American’s freedom to act according to one’s conscience. They didn’t specify that only groups deemed religious will be afforded this protection; freedom of conscience applies equally to all Americans.”

Dr. Gene Rudd, CMA Exec. VP, noted, “The administration fails to understand that many employers and individual Americans, regardless of a religious label or not, maintain strong conscience objections to participating in any, way, shape or form in a plan that promotes pills that the FDA says can cause the demise of a living human embryo — a developing baby in her earliest stage.”

Dr. Stevens added, “It would appear that the administration is trying to diffuse the pressure from federal courts around the country by throwing a sop to religious groups. If administration officials think that this action will somehow cause us to back down and accept the terms of surrender, well, that’s just not going to happen. We all plan to stand united in the fight to ensure that everyone’s First Amendment freedoms of religion and conscience are protected.”

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a pro-life legal organization that focuses on constitutional law, said it is extremely disappointed that the proposed rule change announced today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concerning the mandate does not apply to all Americans.
In its announcement today, the HHS proposed a new “accommodation” for religious, non-profit organizations and companies that object to providing insurance coverage for contraceptive and abortion-inducing services based on their religious beliefs. The new proposal, however, expressly excludes any exemption to for-profit, secular businesses.
“We’re extremely disappointed that the Obama Administration does not respect the religious beliefs of all Americans,” said Francis Manion, Senior Counsel of the ACLJ. “This country’s laws and Constitution protect the religious freedom of all Americans, whether organized into religious bodies or not. Religious believers who simply want to conduct their businesses in a manner consistent with their religious beliefs have the same right to religious liberty as everybody else.”
The ACLJ is studying the exact ramifications of the HHS accommodations proposed today. But what is clear is that today’s proposed rule change to the mandate does not provide any exemption to for-profit companies that are challenging the mandate on religious grounds.
The ACLJ has filed four direct lawsuits on behalf of for-profit companies, the latest suit filed last week on behalf of an Ohio company.
With the for-profit companies not affected by today’s HHS proposed change, the ACLJ notes that it has had success – acquiring injunctions blocking the enforcement of the mandate.
“Courts in ten different cases have already granted injunctions that prohibit the Obama Administration from enforcing the mandate against for-profit business owners,” said Manion. “That’s because those courts have recognized what the Obama Administration apparently refuses to accept — that the mandate tramples on religious freedom in violation of the law. Today’s failed attempt to fully address this issue shows that the Obama Administration has not yet gotten the message being sent loud and clear by the courts.”
Manion added: “The ACLJ intends to carry on this fight until we secure, once and for all, the religious liberty of our clients. It has never been, and is not now, the law that Americans are required to leave their religious principles at the factory gate or office door. We are prepared to take this issue all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.”
In addition to the direct challenges, the ACLJ has filed 13 amicus briefs backing other legal challenges to the HHS mandate.

Senator Orrin Hatch today said that a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) decision requiring employers to provide health care services in violation of their faith should be overturned by the courts, because it violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that Hatch helped push through the Congress on a bipartisan basis.“This is a sad day. Freedom of religion and the right of peoples of faith to be protected against government intrusion must be sacrosanct,” said Hatch. “Unfortunately, this White House doesn’t seem to believe in that Constitutional guarantee – forcing private companies to provide health care services in violation of their beliefs. I’m confident, however, that this misguided policy will be overturned by the courts as I believe it is in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

In 1993, the RFRA was passed unanimously by the House and by a vote of 97-3 in the Senate and was signed into law by President Clinton. It states that the government may not “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless its action is “the least restrictive means of furthering [a] compelling governmental interest.”

Hatch is leading a group of Senators who supported RFRA in a friend of the court brief to be filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit arguing that the HHS mandate violates RFRA. That lawsuit is being brought by the owners of a private company. This proposed revision of the mandate would not apply to private companies so the defect is the same.

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Paul E. Rondeau, executive director of American Life League, also blasted the revisions.

“If this president is a so-called constitutional scholar-as his supporters in the media portray him-then his law school should be embarrassed. In 80 pages of legalese and gobbledygook, this administration fails to recognize the constitutionally protected freedom of conscience that all Americans-not just religious organizations as defined by the IRS-are guaranteed in their personal lives and in the workplace,” he said.

He told LifeNews, “The tragic lessons of history teach us that when one right can be infringed, all rights are at risk. The HHS mandates are losing in court. It is time for this administration to submit itself to the US Constitution, which it has sworn to uphold, and quit trying to hold the country’s conscience hostage to its own agenda.”
The Catholic Association also responded, saying, “The HHS mandate announcement today changes nothing, it is just another accounting gimmick and the HHS mandate continues to be a violation of civil rights, religious freedom and First Amendment rights. Catholic institutions and other faith based organizations, including hospitals and universities and private employers, still do not get their First Amendment rights back and are still being forced to either violate their faith or pay crippling government fines for practicing their faith.”