Rubio Senate Bill Would Repeal Obama Anti-Conscience Mandate

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 1, 2012   |   6:22PM   |   Washington, DC

Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, has filed legislation in the Senate to repeal a new ObamaCare mandate that violates the religious liberties and conscience rights of faith-based institutions by forcing them to offer employees insurance coverage for contraceptives, birth control or drugs that can cause abortions.

The Obama Administration issued a statement re-iterating the “contraceptive mandate” requiring all insurance providers cover the full range of FDA-approved drugs and devices would remain intact. This mandate, issued in August, includes drugs that work after conception to destroy life rather than prevent it. The statement included a postponement of one year for religious groups that do not already carry contraceptives and additionally would not be exempted under last year’s narrow definition of “religious employer.”

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012, enjoys the support of 21 senators and several national conservative and faith organization, who joined the pro-life senator in filing the bill.

“The Obama Administration’s obsession with forcing mandates on the American people has now reached a new low by violating the conscience rights and religious liberties of our people,” said Rubio.  “Under this President, we have a government that has grown too big, too costly and now even more overbearing by forcing religious entities to abandon their beliefs.  This is a common sense bill that simply says the government can’t force religious organizations to abandon the fundamental tenets of their faith because the government says so.”

“The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012 has also earned the support and accolades of a series of groups concerned with the Obama Administration’s overreach into the lives of the American people,” Rubio said.

Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List supported the bill today saying, “Senator Rubio is a valiant defender of unborn children, their mothers, and the conscience rights of pro-life Americans. Just this week, Sen. Rubio introduced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012 to stop the Obama Administration’s radical attack on the First Amendment freedoms of Americans with the recent HHS contraceptive mandate. We look forward to Sen. Rubio’s continued pro-life leadership.”

Mandi Campbell of Liberty Counsel Action added: “We appreciate the exemption that your bill provides to secure the consciences of those with deep and sincere religious convictions opposed to the coverage of contraceptives (especially those that act as abortifacients) and sterilization, the provision of which is currently mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Thank you, Senator Rubio, for introducing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012.”

And Hannah Smith, senior counsel for the Beckett Fund, a pro-life group, supports the bill as well.

“Senator Rubio’s bill answers the call from religious individuals and groups across the country who are tired of an imperious government imposing ‘mandates’ on the American people … Rubio’s bill is a balanced approach that will prevent the government from penalizing those who are simply being true to their religious faith,” she said.

The 21 senators who have signed their name to the legislation include:

Senator Mitch McConnell; John Boozman; Saxby Chambliss; Dan Coats; Tom Coburn; Susan Collins; John Cornyn; Mike Crapo; Orrin Hatch; John Hoeven; Kay Bailey Hutchison; Jon Kyl; Mike Lee;John McCain; Rand Paul; Jim Risch; Jeff Sessions; John Thune; Pat Toomey; David Vitter; and Roger Wicker.

The mandate not only violates such existing conscience protections on abortion such as the Hyde/Weldon Amendment (in so far as Plan B and Ella are covered), but also violates the principles of the Church Amendments which protects conscience rights for those who object to contraceptives and other services on moral or religious grounds. Additionally, the U.S. government already funds domestic family planning at a level of $1.9 billion annually.

The administration initially 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.

Jeanne Monahan of FRC says the current opt out is not sufficient.

“On September 30th, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) received thousands of negative comments related to the interim final rule published on August 3rd where all insurance plans were informed that they must cover the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives with no co-pay,” Monahan explains. “A very narrowly defined conscience exemption for religious organizations was included which, in essence, covers only places of worship and was originally drafted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for a bill in California.”

“HHS offered a fig leaf of conscience protection for certain churches that fulfill very specific criteria. However, religious groups that provide social services, engage in missions work to people of different religious faiths, religious health insurance companies, let alone religious health care providers and individuals in such health plans are not protected from any discrimination whatever. The new rule will force many Americans to violate their consciences or refrain from participating in health care insurance, further burdening an already costly system,” Monahan said.

“For an administration that promised to protect conscience laws in effect now, this decision completely ignores opinion, research and science that do not support a pro-abortion ideology. In the words of one of the committee members who objected to the IOM recommendations, the ‘evaluation for evidence lacked transparency … the process tended to result in a mix of objective and subjective determination through the lens of advocacy,” Monahan continued. “This administration is promoting mandates that will violate the consciences of millions.”

The HHS accepted the IOM guidelines that “require new health insurance plans to cover women’s preventive services” and those services include “FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling” — which include birth control drugs like Plan B and ella that can cause abortions. The Health and Human Services Department commissioned the report from the Institute, which advises the federal government and shut out pro-life groups in meetings leading up to the recommendations.