The new Continuing Resolution introduced in the House of Representatives does not include the conscience protections against the Obama Administration’s HHS mandate that pro-life advocates were hoping for.
Leading pro-life groups have been supporting a new bill, the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, that would protect the conscience rights of pro-life advocates and companies that do not want to be forced to pay for birth control or drugs that may cause abortions under Obamacare.
Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, one of several pro-life groups actively pushing the measure and hoping it would be placed in the CR, told LifeNews he is disappointed it was not added.
“We are disappointed that the Health Care Conscience Rights Act wasn’t placed in the Continuing Resolution, but we continue to urge Members to push for its inclusion,” he said. “This bill’s language must be included in must-pass legislation to ensure that the First Amendment-guaranteed religious liberties of all Americans are protected. Failure to include it will result in thousands of religious organizations being forced to comply or face severe fines for maintaining their religious convictions.”
The bill was introduced yesterday by U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) to protect the religious liberties of anyone who purchases health insurance, including non-profits, businesses and individuals, as well as providing greater protections for health care workers who refuse to participate in abortion.
The House leadership and House appropriators yesterday released the “Continuing Resolution” (CR) to fund the government agencies through the next 6 months. However, the CR doesn’t fix the assault on religious liberties imposed by the HHS mandate implementing Obamacare. Black and Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), along with 12 female Republican Members, last week sent a letter urging House leaders to add conscience protections to the CR. FRC also sent a coalition letter with over 80 groups urging House leaders to protect religious freedoms.
“This new CR is “must pass” legislation since the President must sign such a bill before March 27 or the government will shut down. Unfortunately, House leadership decided not to add the Black, Fleming and Fortenberry conscience protections to the CR,” Perkins said. “The HHS mandate already is threatening serious fines for non-compliance for businesses like Hobby Lobby. It is ridiculous that the penalty for not providing employee insurance ($2,000 a year per employee) would be far greater than exorbitant fines ($100 per employee, per day) for refusing to provide abortion pills and contraception.”
“The mandate also goes into effect this August for religious charities, hospitals, and universities who believe their faith should inform their health care choices. Imagine that,” Perkins added. “In effect, the HHS mandate doesn’t merely require employers to offer free abortion drugs and contraceptives in their insurance plans. It fundamentally creates a two-tier religious caste system whereby churches are religious enough for exemption, but people of faith choosing to exercise their beliefs in their everyday business lives or charity work for the public are not. Religious freedom is not limited to places of worship, or at least it hasn’t been for over 200 years.”
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“The accounting gimmicks HHS proposed in February don’t offer an exemption, and why not? The Administration clearly thinks religious entities, other than churches, should include controversial services in their health plans. It’s clear the President and HHS Secretary Sebelius believe convictions of faith should be checked on the way out the church door,” he continued.
Perkins acknowledged the reality is that a stand-alone bill will never pass the Senate and be signed by the President and said its language has to be added to a “must pass” piece of legislation like the CR.
“We are not interested in just having a vote on legislation that addresses our concern, we want a resolution on this government assault on our First Freedom. The House leadership should reconsider the importance of religious freedom to all Americans as it debates the CR,” he concluded.