De-Funding Obamacare Would be a Pro-Life Victory, But HHS Mandate Would Remain

Opinion   William Saunders and Mary Novick, AUL Action   Aug 1, 2013   |   6:00PM    Washington, DC

Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Marco Rubio are making waves as they lead the charge to de-fund the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in Congress. The Senators propose that Congress pass a continuing resolution to fund the entire government except for the ACA. Pro-life Americans including those at Americans United for Life commend their efforts because de-funding the ACA is an excellent step toward undermining this law, which is the greatest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade.

While de-funding the ACA will solve many of the anti-life problems with the law, this will not address religious liberty and conscience problems caused by the “preventive services mandate” (also known as the HHS mandate)—for this, Congress either needs to repeal the ACA or pass the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, HR 940/S 1204.

The ACA packs a one-two punch for pro-life Americans – first, its coercive mandates; second, its forced financing of anti-life provisions through various funding mechanisms. Both problems must be addressed to undo this injustice.

As noted, de-funding the ACA is important. Doing so will stymie several anti-life provisions of the law, including the subsidization of insurance plans that cover abortions in the state exchanges, and the provision of additional funding for abortion providers through increased Medicaid funding.

While the Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of these Medicaid funds to directly pay for most abortions, there have been documented cases where abortion providers failed to substantively separate these funds. Further, when abortion providers receive public funding for family planning and other services, they are able to direct more private funds to their abortion businesses. Thus, if Senators Cruz, Lee, and Rubio are successful in their efforts to de-fund the ACA, it will be an important pro-life victory.

However, the plan proposed by these Senators will not address the religious liberty and conscience concerns with the ACA.

Under the ACA, the preventive services mandate requires that all private and public health insurance plans fully cover, without co-pay, “preventive services” for women. HHS has defined “preventive services” in such a way that it forces employers, against their religious and moral beliefs, to facilitate coverage of life-ending drugs and devices including the abortion-inducing drug ella. Currently, without an injunction from a court, conscientious American business owners are being forced to choose between violating their beliefs and paying fines so great that they will be forced to close.

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The “safe harbor” for certain religious non-profits expires in 2014, placing them in a similar untenable situation of either paying fines or accepting a so called “accommodation” that violates their convictions against cooperating in immoral practices.

The preventive services mandate affects employer and individually funded health insurance plans, so it will remain in place even if the ACA is de-funded. Additional legislative action is needed to protect religious liberty.

Pro-life Americans are thankful that Senators Cruz, Lee, and Rubio are taking leadership on the important issue of defunding the ACA, but Congress must not forget about religious liberty and freedom of conscience. In order to protect these fundamental rights, it is essential that Congress pass the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, HR 940/ S 1204. Americans United for Life is asking all pro-life Americans to act now to end the assault on life in the ACA. Real Health Care is life-affirming.