Republicans are moving swiftly with legislation, amendments, and potential hearings on the mandate the Obama administration has put in place that forces religious employers to pay for birth control and abortion-inducing drugs for their employees.
Congress will do what it can to fight back, starting this week, as pro-life Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, puts together a hearing on conscience rights.
“If this is what the President is willing to do in a tough election year, imagine what he will do in implementing the rest of his health care law after the election,” Issa said.
Rep. Dan Lipinski, a pro-life Illinois Democrat, and a host of Republicans from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), will hold a hearing entitled, “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?” on Thursday, February 16th at 9:30AM in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.
On Thursday, Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and others offered Amendment #1520 to ensure Obamacare cannot be used to force health plan issuers or healthcare providers to furnish insurance coverage for drugs, devices, and services contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions. However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the top Democrat, blocked the amendment.
Leading pro-life groups, including Americans United for Life, are urging support for the Amendment, which could be added to another piece of legislation.
“The Obama Administration continued its unprecedented attack on Americans’ freedom of conscience by refusing to reverse its mandate that nearly all insurance plans must provide full coverage of all Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved “contraception,” including the abortion-inducing drug ella,” the organization said in an action alert to its members. “We must urge the Senate to protect Americans’ freedom of conscience by supporting Amendment #1520, which would protect the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in healthcare coverage that is consistent with one’s religious beliefs and moral convictions.”
Meanwhile, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry is pursuing legislation that also enjoys strong support form pro-life organizations. Fortenberry introduced H.R. 1179, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, in March 2011, but the bill is getting a renewed focus now. This measure would repeal the controversial mandate, amending the 2010 health care law to preserve conscience rights for religious institutions, health care providers, and small businesses who pay for health care coverage. [related]
Currently, the bill has a bipartisan 180 cosponsors. In the Senate, Senator Roy Blunt is advancing this same legislation, with nearly 40 cosponsors.
“The President still doesn’t understand that religious institutions will still be unacceptably entangled–financially and provisionally– with drugs, procedures, and services to which they may have religious and moral objections, in violation of their long-held rights of conscience,” he told LifeNews in a statement. “Moreover, this announcement still does not get to the very core of American distress: religious freedom and conscience rights are natural rights as enshrined in the Constitution. The government does not confer them and must not force persons to violate them by paying for things to which they have reasoned religious or moral objections.”
“Congress should protect the religious liberty and conscience rights of every American who objects to being forced by the strongarm of government to pay for services to which she or he has deeply-held objections. We must do so for the benefit of the millions of Americans who are calling for swift bipartisan action,” he added.
H.R. 1179 enjoys the endorsements of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Right to Life Committee, Americans United for Life, and other organizations. Numerous other organizations, including the Christian Medical Association and Family Research Council, have urged support of the bill.
Also, pro-life former Congressman David McIntosh of Indiana told CNS that Republicans can try to overturn the mandate through the Congressional Review Act via a simple majority vote.
As CNS reports, McIntosh sent a letter on Friday to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) urging them to overturn the Obamacare regulation. https://cnsnews.com/news/article/gop-can-stop-obama-s-contraceptive-rule-now-congressional-review-act-laws-author-says
“The administration’s rule needs to be overturned,” wrote McIntosh. “Fortunately, Congress does not have to sit on the sidelines and wait for enlightenment to overcome the administration or for the matter to reach the courts. The Congressional Review Act (CRA), which I authored while serving in Congress, provides the authority to overturn the rule.”
CNS indicates, “Under the CRA, Congress can call up any administrative regulation and hold an up-or-down vote to nullify it.”
Naturally, pro-abortion groups are working overtime to stop any pro-life effort to protect conscience and religious rights.
“Despite overwhelming public support for birth control, anti-birth control lawmakers aren’t backing down — in fact, they’re getting even more extreme. Several bills have been introduced in the Senate that would let any employer deny women coverage for birth control, and similar legislation has been introduced in the House,” Planned Parenthood told its members today in an action alert LifeNews obtained. “They’ve gone much too far.”
Planned Parenthood is asking abortion backers to sign a petition opposing these efforts.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement saying Obama’s revised mandate involves “needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions” and it urged Congress to overturn the rule and promised a potential lawsuit.
Meanwhile, the Republican presidential candidates had been taking verbal swings at Obama for imposing the original mandate on religious employers, which is not popular in the latest public opinion poll and which even some Democrats oppose.
Congressman Steve Scalise has led a bipartisan letter with 154 co-signers calling on the Obama Administration to reverse its 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 original 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.”
The original mandate was 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.