The Obama administration announced this week that it would adopt the guidelines an agency recommended that would force insurance companies to cover birth control and drugs that can cause early abortions. A bill in Congress responds to the concerns.
As LifeNews reported, the Obama administration has approved a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine suggesting that it force insurance companies to pay for birth control and drugs that can cause abortions under the Obamacare government-run health care program.
The IOM recommendation, opposed by pro-life groups, called for the Obama administration to require insurance programs to include birth control — such as the morning after pill or the ella drug that causes an abortion days after conception — in the section of drugs and services insurance plans must cover under “preventative care.” The companies will likely pass the added costs on to consumers, requiring them to pay for birth control and, in some instances, drug-induced abortions of unborn children in their earliest days.
The Obama administration’s decision also presented significant conscience concerns for Catholic and pro-life groups who don’t want to be forced to pay for insurance coverage for employees that includes birth control and abortion-causing drugs.
However, legislation sponsored by pro-life Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, HR 1179, and several pro-life members of the U.S. House would help mitigate those conscience concerns.
Fortenberry is the sponsor of the measure designed to protect rights of conscience with regard to requirements for coverage decisions under Obamacare and federal law.
“Until [Obamacare], the Federal Government has not sought to impose specific coverage or care requirements that infringe on the rights of conscience of insurers, purchasers of insurance, plan sponsors, beneficiaries, and other stakeholders, such as individual or institutional health care providers,” the bill notes. But Obamacare, “creates a new nationwide requirement for health plans to cover `essential health benefits’ and `preventive services’ (including a distinct set of `preventive services for women’), delegating to the Department of Health and Human Services the authority to provide a list of detailed services under each category, and imposes other new requirements with respect to the provision of health care services.”
“While PPACA provides an exemption for some religious groups that object to participation in Government health programs generally, it does not allow purchasers, plan sponsors, and other stakeholders with religious or moral objections to specific items or services to decline providing or obtaining coverage of such items or services, or allow health care providers with such objections to decline to provide them,” the bill adds. “By creating new barriers to health insurance and causing the loss of existing insurance arrangements, these inflexible mandates in PPACA jeopardize the ability of individuals to exercise their rights of conscience and their ability to freely participate in the health insurance and health care marketplace.”
The legislation allows an individual or institutional health care provider or health care plan to not be compelled to cover or refer for services or items (drugs) that violate their religious or moral views.
The bill enjoys the support of the nation’s Catholic bishops and pro-life groups.
“The Administration’s failure to create a meaningful conscience exemption to the preventive services mandate underscores the need for Congress to approve the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said. “That bill (H.R. 1179), introduced by Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Dan Boren (D-OK), would prevent mandates under the new health reform law from undermining rights of conscience.”
Americans United for Life president Charmaine Yoest also supported the legislation.
“The preventive care provision of the health care law was intended to prevent diseases, not to end pregnancies,” said Yoest. “Americans United Life Action urges Congress to pass the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, H.R. 1179, to address today’s unconscionable mandate.”
Bill Saunders of Americans United for Life is also on board and explained: “While the Obama Administration is unlikely to retreat from the attack on conscience it unleashed on Monday (and its friends at Planned Parenthood are lobbying for it to remove even the fig-leaf conscience protection it proffered), a solution has been introduced in both the House and Senate. The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act – H.R. 1179 and S. 1467 – would ensure that PPACA’s broad mandate authorities, such as the “preventive services” mandate, cannot be used to violate Americans’ conscience rights.”
“This is a vital cause, and should have bi-partisan support. As other commentators have noted, there is a strong tradition in American policy-formulation in protecting conscience rights. However, unless Americans rise to this challenge, that tradition is at risk,” he continued.