Fifty Members of Congress Hold Press Event on Obama Mandate

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 15, 2012   |   11:53AM   |   Washington, DC

The new mandate pro-abortion President Barack Obama put in place forcing religious employers to pay for insurance coverage including birth control and abortion-inducing drugs is so offensive more than 50 members of Congress will speak out against it today.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry will hold a press conference today with supporters of the bipartisan, bicameral Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. His legislation would protect the religious liberty and conscience rights of every American who objects to being forced by the strong-arm of government to pay for drugs and procedures recently mandated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Fortenberry bill currently has the support of approximately 220 Members of Congress and Senators, the most strongly-supported legislative remedy to the controversial HHS mandate.  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.

“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.

The press conference comes as the U.S. Senate is expected to vote soon, possibly as early as today, on an amendment that would stop the mandate President Barack Obama put in place to force religious groups to pay for insurance coverage that includes birth control and abortion-causing drugs.

Sen. Roy Blunt, a pro-life Missouri Republican, is putting forward the Blunt Amendment, #1520, again, and it is termed the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. According to information provided to LifeNews from pro-life sources on Capitol Hill, the Blunt Amendment will be the first amendment voted on when the Senate returns to the transportation bill. The amendment would allow employers to decline coverage of services in conflict with religious beliefs.

The Hill indicatesReid said Tuesday that he will allow a vote on the Blunt amendment. Meanwhile, the usual pro-abortion leaders int he Senate — Patty Murrary and Barbara Boxer — say they will aggressively oppose the amendment.

“This is a genuine assault on First Amendment freedoms,” Blunt said in an exclusive interview with Heritage following a speech there Monday. Blunt dismissed Obama’s “accommodation” announcement last week as an “accounting gimmick.” He said it’s not an issue of money as Obama portrayed it Friday.

“This is not about cost. It’s about the Constitution,” Blunt told Heritage. “And if you can decide this no longer offends me because I don’t have to pay for it, I guess you’re concern is financial all the time and not faith-based.”

The members of Congress will hold their press conference today at 1 p.m. EST in Studio A of the House TV and Radio Correspondents Gallery (HVC 114).  The following members will participate: [related]

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, author of HR 1179, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act

Congresswoman Sandy Adams

Congressman Robert Aderholt, Chairman of Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security

Congressman Todd Akin, Chairman of Armed Services Subcommittee on Sea Power Projection

Congressman Steve Austria, House Appropriations Committee

Congressman Spencer Bachus, Chairman of House Financial Services Committee

Congressman Lou Barletta

Congressman Rick Berg

Congresswoman Diane Black, House Ways and Means Committee liaison to House Budget Committee

Congressman Charles Boustany, Chairman of House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight

Congressman Kevin Brady, top Republican on the Joint Economic Committee, senior member of the House Ways & Means Committee

Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle, Vice-Chairman of Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight, and Spending

Congressman Dan Burton, senior member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

Congressman Francisco ‘Quico’ Canseco

Congressman Steve Chabot, Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia

Congressman Sean Duffy

Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, Chairman of House Subcommittee on Higher Education, member House Committees on Rules

Congressman Phil Gingrey, Chairman of GOP Doctors’ Caucus, Chairman of Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight

Congressman Louie Gohmert, Vice-Chair of Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security

Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Vice-Chairman of House Agriculture Committee

Congressman Gregg Harper, Chairman of Fragile X Caucus, Chairman of House Administration Subcommittee on Elections

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler

Congressman Tim Huelskamp

Congressman Bill Huizenga

Congressman Randy Hultgren

Congressman Walter Jones

Congressman Jack Kingston, Chairman of Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development and Food and Drug Administration

Congressman Raul Labrador, Vice-Chairman of Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations

Congressman Doug Lamborn, Chairman of House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources

Congressman Jeff Landry

Congressman Bob Latta

Congressman Donald Manzullo, Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific

Congressman Mick Mulvaney, Chairman of Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce

Congressman Patrick McHenry, Chairman of Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on TARP, Financial Services, and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs

Congressman Jeff Miller, Chairman of House Committee on Veterans Affairs

Congressman Alan Nunnelee

Congressman Pete Roskam, Chief Deputy Whip for Republican House Caucus

Congressman David Schweikert

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Vice-Chairman of Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

Congressman Steve Scalise, author of House letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius on the mandate

Congressman Bobby Schilling

Congresswoman Jean Schmidt, Chairwoman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition and Horticulture

Congressman Tim Scott, Deputy Whip, Elected Leadership Committee

Congressman Chris Smith, Co-Chairman of Pro-Life Caucus, Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights

Congressman Steve Southerland

Congressman Marlin Stutzman, Deputy Whip for Republican House Caucus

Congressman Lee Terry, Vice-Chairman on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology

Congressman Glenn Thompson, Chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, & Forestry

Congressman Robert Turner

Senator David Vitter


Republicans are moving swiftly with legislation, amendments, and potential hearings on the mandatethe 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.”

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.