Pro-Life Groups Continue Pushing Blunt Amdt to Stop Mandate

National   Steven Ertelt   Feb 28, 2012   |   12:29PM    Washington, DC

Leading pro-life organizations are continuing to push the Blunt amendment in the Senate to respond to the mandate the Obama administration issued that forces religious groups to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions for employees.

The Senate is currently considering S.1813, the Highway bill, and it is expected to be on the Senate floor for the remainder of the week. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, who supports abortion, and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who is pro-life, continue to work on a list of potential amendments to the bill and the Blunt Amendment is expected to be included.

Roy Blunt, a pro-life Republican senator from Missouri, is behind the amendment and he told the University of Missouri student newspaper why he thinks it is important.

“It’s still clear that President Obama does not understand this isn’t about cost, it’s about who controls the religious views of faith-based institutions,” Blunt said. “President Obama believes that he should have that control. Our Constitution states otherwise.”

The text of the Blunt Amendment consists of the language taken from the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S. 1467, H.R. 1179).  It would amend the Obama health care law (“ObamaCare”) to prevent the imposition of regulatory mandates that violate the religious or moral convictions of those who purchase or provide health insurance.

Catholic Advocate, a leading lay Catholic grassroots organization in Washington, is one of dozens of pro-life groups pushing for its adoption. The organization launched their latest effort to defend religious liberty by calling on people of faith to support the Respect for Rights of Conscience act through a web video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AMC5Xp4l9c&feature=youtu.be

“When faith is tested, it can falter…or be strengthened. The Department of Health and Human Services contraception mandate of January 20th, and the quote/unquote accommodation announced on Feb. 10th, will force religious institutions to do something that goes against their beliefs. Catholic Bishops, who interpret the doctrine of the Church, and leaders of other religious groups, were not consulted,” the video says. “Yet…the head of Planned Parenthood was…and the mandate was finalized without addressing our concerns. Many Catholic institutions self-insure, which means they will still be required to pay for contraception coverage, even though it is against their beliefs.”

“Insurance companies have already said their costs will go up and be passed along to customers. Contact Congress [202-224-3121] immediately and tell them to support the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. Help defend our religious liberties,” it concludes.

Population Research Institute president Steven Mosher says his group is also urging pro-life advocates to contact Congress.

“The Obama administration’s attack on religious liberty is intensifying,” he said. “It now claims the right, under the new HHS Mandate, to force hundreds of thousands of Catholics, working in thousands of Catholic organizations, to violate their conscience and the teachings of their faith on the Life issues. The new Mandate is particularly alarming to us at PRI, since we exist to promote the Church’s teaching on abortion, sterilization, and abortifacient contraception.”

“Now we are ordered to buy medical insurance that provides just such deadly services. (Abortifacient contraception and sterilization for now, with abortion lurking just around the corner,” Mosher continues. “Obama’s claim that we won’t have to pay for these services because the insurance companies will pick up the tab is ludicrous. As everyone knows, the insurers will simply pass the cost along to us.”

Mosher says:  “PRI calls upon every American concerned about religious liberty to immediately contact their legislators to support the Respect for the Rights of Conscience Act (HR 1179 by Congressman Jeff Fortenberry and S. 1467 by Senator Roy Blunt). The bill could be taken up in both the House and the Senate this week. Contact your Congressman immediately and ask for his support for this legislation. If he hasn’t yet co-sponsored HR 1179, ask him to do so. We must let House leadership know that Americans overwhelmingly support religious liberty.”

Mosher says the Blunt Amendment “not only reverses the HHS Mandate, it preserves the right of insurance issuers, providers and purchasers to negotiate a health plan excluding items that are against moral and religious convictions, as well as providing conscience protection for All Americans.”

The National Right to Life Committee calls the amendment “vital” and says the Obama HHS mandate could result in a mandate in the future that forces taxpayer funding of abortions.

“When President Obama’s health care legislation was under consideration in the Senate in 2009, NRLC warned that a provision dealing with “preventive health services” would empower the Secretary of Health and Human Services to mandate coverage of any medical service, including abortion, merely by adding the service to an expandable list,” NRLC says. “Predictably, the Administration issued a decree in August, 2011, covering all FDA-approved birth control methods – a mandate that, unless overturned, will produce an irreconcilable conflict between conscience and the coercive force of government for many employers.  In recent months, the Administration’s “birth-control mandate” has elicited vigorous protests from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Southern Baptist Convention, and many other religious leaders, as an attack on religious liberty.”

“But this is not a debate only about the specific parameters of the birth-control mandate.  Exactly the same statutory authority could be used by the Administration — as early as next year — to mandate that all health plans pay for elective abortion on demand,” NRLC added.

“The Blunt Amendment goes to the heart of the problem by amending the ObamaCare law itself, to prevent provisions of the law from being used as a basis for regulatory mandates that violate the religious or moral convictions of those who purchase or provide health insurance,” the pro-life organization said.

The mandate has already become the subject of several lawsuits.

Tell Obama: Stop This Pro-Abortion Mandate

Meanwhile, more than a dozen state attorneys general have signed onto a joint letter Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning started coordinating  against the controversial Obama mandate requiring religious employers to cover birth control and drugs that can cause abortions

Bruning has contacted each of his colleagues in 49 states and has already been joined by a dozen, including South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Together, the three lawmakers have co-signed a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebilius, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis over the Obama mandate.

Also, the largest Catholic pro-life group and Catholic television station have filed suit against the new Obama mandate that forces religious employers like them to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs in employee health insurance. The EWTN Global Catholic Network filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Alabama against the Department of Health & Human Services, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and other government agencies seeking to stop the imposition of the anti-conscience mandate as well as asking the court for a declaratory judgment that the mandate is unconstitutional.

Priests for Life, a New York based international pro-life organization of Catholic clergy and laity, filed a lawsuit against the Obama Administration in an effort to seek injunctive relief from impending regulations that would require the organization to pay for employee health insurance that covers abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization.

Late last week, the Obama administration asked a federal court to dismiss yet another lawsuit filed against the Obama administration over its mandate.

This was its first opportunity to explain to the court and the country why the mandate is not illegal and unconstitutional. The Obama administration did not defend the constitutionality of the mandate, but said the lawsuit should be thrown out because the administration plans to revise the mandate to make it on insurance companies to pay for coverage rather than employers, who will still have to make referrals.

This was its first opportunity to explain to the court and the country why the mandate is not illegal and unconstitutional. The Obama administration did not defend the constitutionality of the mandate, but said the lawsuit should be thrown out because the administration plans to revise the mandate to make it on insurance companies to pay for coverage rather than employers, who will still have to make referrals.

“Plaintiff’s challenge to the preventive services coverage regulations is not fit for judicial review because defendants [Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius] have indicated that they will propose and finalize changes to the regulations that are intended to accommodate plaintiff’s religious objections to providing contraception coverage,” the Department of Justice (DOJ) wrote in its brief to the Washington, D.C. District Court.

Obama officials claim the mandate does not put forth any “immediate injury” to religious groups.

Luke Goodrich, Deputy General Counsel of the Becket Fund, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic university, says he thinks the Obama administrations argument will not stand up in court.

“It doesn’t argue that the mandate is legal; it doesn’t argue that the mandate is constitutional,” Goodrich said. “Instead, it begs the court to ignore the lawsuit because the government plans to change the mandate at some unspecified date in the future.”

“Apparently, the administration has decided that the mandate, as written and finalized, is constitutionally indefensible,” said Hannah Smith, senior counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty “Its only hope is to ask the court to look the other way based on an empty promise to possibly change the rules in the future.”

The panel that put together the mandate has been condemned for only having pro-abortion members even though polling shows Americans are opposed to the mandate.

More than 50 members of Congress banded together at a press conference to demand legislation to stop 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.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry held a press conference 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.