Stupak: Obamacare Protected Conscience, Except When It Didn’t

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 9, 2012   |   12:45PM   |   Washington, DC

In a new interview with Greta Van Susteren of Fox News, “pro-life” former Democratic congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan says he is opposed to the controversial new Obama mandate that forces religious employers to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs in employee health insurance plans.

Stupak claimed that the Obamacare legislation he allowed to become law protected the conscience rights of Catholics and other religious employers, but then says he is opposed to the new mandate and that it must be fixed.

VAN SUSTEREN: You don’t get to vote on this one because you have retired, but I’m curious, what do you think about this latest dispute?

STUPAK: Oh, I’m disappointed that the administration would put forth such a rule, but as you’re putting together and implementing major legislation, there’s going to be stumbles and fumbles along the way, and this is one. And I think it can be corrected, and I hope we can get the matter resolved short of further action by Congress or — the president should just sit down, let’s work this thing out. We can do it. We’ve done it before, we can do it again.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, at least tonight, though, the line seems to be drawn in the sand. I don’t know about tomorrow. But I’m curious, you say you stumbled and fumbled. I’m trying to understand your position. Is the morning-after pill, in your mind, contraception, or is it as — some Catholics might say it’s a form of abortion?

STUPAK: I think it’s a — it’s a contraceptive. It’s — and you’re destroying an embryo, you’re taking a life. Therefore, I’m not in favor of that, nor does the Catholic church.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so if it’s contraceptive, then it is not covered in the executive order that the president signed, is that right, that that executive order that you agreed to dealt with abortion?

STUPAK: Oh, no. No, it dealt with — it dealt with not only abortion, but also with the conscience clause. In fact, if you look in section one of the executive order, it’s — very clearly it says — it cites the Church amendment way back in 1973, all the way to the Weldon amendment, which was in legislation that President Obama signed in 2009, in which they talked about the conscience clause and the right of individuals and institutions such as the church to not provide these services if it violates their tenets of their faith and their principles and their conscience.

The problem with Stupak’s contention is that Obamacare didn’t fix the conscience issues, as a House hearing in November revealed.

In a November 1 letter to subcommittee chairman Rep. Joseph Pitts, the Pennsylvania Republican who is the chairman of the panel, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the head of the pro-life office of the nation’s Catholic bishops, said he looks forward to the hearing. In the letter, Cardinal DiNardo says Congress should strengthen conscience protections for health care providers and ensure that health care reform measures do not impede religious liberty.

He said the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or Obamacare) “excluded longstanding protections for conscience rights on abortion, by failing to apply the annual Hyde/Weldon amendment to the billions of dollars newly appropriated by the Act.”

“And it created new open-ended mandates for ‘essential health benefits’ and ‘preventive services’ to be included in almost all private health plans, without any provision for individuals or institutions that may have a moral or religious objection to particular items or procedures,” he said.

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 Obama administration is reportedly considering a compromise on its new mandate that has caused national outrage because it forces religious employers to cover birth control and drugs that may cause abortions. However, the leading pro-life spokesman for the Catholic bishops says the compromise may be worse.

Congressman Steve Scalise has led a bipartisan letter with 154 co-signers calling on the Obama Administration to reverse its unconstitutional mandate forcing religious organizations to include drugs that can cause abortion and birth control in the health care plans of their employees.

Bishops across the country have spoken out against the mandate and are considering a lawsuit against it — with bishops in more than 164 locations across the United States issuing public statements against it or having letters opposing it printed in diocesan newspaper or read from the pulpit.

“We cannot — we will not comply with this unjust law,” said the letter from Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix. “People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens.”

Responding to the announcement, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated: “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”

“To force Americans to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable. . . It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom,” he added.

The mandate is so egregious that even the normally reliably liberal and pro-abortion USA Today condemned it in an editorial titled, “Contraception mandate violates religious freedom.”

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.

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.