Democrats Attack Pro-Lifers Ahead of Blunt Amendment Vote

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 29, 2012   |   12:55PM   |   Washington, DC

Leading Democrats are aggressively attacking pro-life advocates and lawmakers who want a vote on the Blunt Amendment tomorrow to mitigate the problems associated with the new mandate pro-abortion President Barack Obama put in place.

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.

But, yesterday, pro-abortion Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, while agreeing to a vote on the amendment, attacks Republicans for wanting to protect religious liberty — essentially calling them Neanderthals for wanting it.

“It’s hard to understand why my Republican colleagues think this topic deserves to be debated in the first place,” Reid told reporters. “Once we put this extreme, distracting proposal behind us, I’m hoping my Republican colleagues will stop living in the past and join us this year, 2012, and help us create jobs.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer, the pro-abortion California Democrat who is the leader of the pro-abortion forces in the Senate, claimed Republicans are more interested in attacking women than helping them and claimed the amendment would somehow hurt the highway bill to which it would be attached.

“We’re in a situation in the 21st century where, in order to move forward on a highway bill that funds our highways, our roads, our bridges, our transit systems, in order to move forward on that jobs bill, where 2.8 million jobs are at stake in this great nation, we have to have a vote on birth control,” she said. “I just want to say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, what are you thinking?”

Sen. Al Franken, a pro-abortion Democrat, told his colleagues on the Senate floor that the amendment is really just an attack on women and women’s health.

“Every woman has the right to make decisions about her own health and for her family,” he said. “We’ve seen proposal after proposal that would inject politics into the decisions women make with their doctors. Now we’re seeing an all-out attack on a woman’s right to protect her health buy buying contraceptives.”

Meanwhile, retiring pro-abortion Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe appears to be the only Republican senator who will be voting against the Blunt Amendment.

“With respect to the Blunt amendment, I think it’s much broader than I could support. I think we should focus on the issue of contraceptives and whether or not it should be included in a health insurance plan and what requirements there should be,” she has said.

While Democrats are on the attack, Ed Morrissey of Hot Air suggests the amendment is helpful for Republicans who want to target a handful of Democratic senators whose days may be numbered because of tenuous re-election bids.

“The vote sets up either a showdown or an opportunity for Obama, who miscalculated on how much resistance this mandate would generate,” he said. “If the amendment passes — and it’s going to be very difficult for McCaskill, Jon Tester, Bill Nelson, Joe Manchin, and even Mark Pryor to vote against it — it would force Obama to veto the entire transportation bill, a bill he has demanded for weeks.  That threatens to strengthen the hand of conservatives in the House and Senate who don’t like the bill as it is now, but who might be cajoled into coming along on it in order to pass Blunt’s bill.  Obama has issued only two vetos in his first term, and vetoing this bill over religious freedom would be a losing proposition, especially since having it pass the Democratic-controlled Senate would make Obama look extreme on the issue.”

But Morrissey also suggests it may help Obama to get the conscience issue of the table — as pro-life advocates are using it to attack his own re-election bid.

“However, Obama may welcome the opportunity for Congress to roll back part of his mandate.  Its imposition will cost him votes, and its enforcement may well cost him tens of billions of dollars trying to fill gaps left by the departure of religious organizations in the health-care field.  It may even complicate his defense of ObamaCare in the Supreme Court this term, which is already likely to be overturned anyway,” Morrissey notes. “But if Congress changes the mandate, it leaves Obama off the hook from having to retreat on the issue by adding a conscience exemption on his own.  It takes the issue off the table (at least mostly), but most importantly, it leaves the mandate in place for the rest of employers around the country.  Instead of a total win, it would give Obama a partial win and a chance to change the subject.”

The amendment has the support of pro-life groups, with National Right to Life saying: “It would amend the Obama health care law to prevent the imposition of regulatory mandates that violate the religious or moral convictions of those who purchase or provide health insurance, such as the recent decree that virtually all employers, including religiously affiliated hospitals and schools, must purchase health insurance plans that cover all government-approved methods of birth control.”

Eagle Forum adds, “This mandate is set to take effect August 1, 2012.  When pro-life activists, particularly the Catholic Church, challenged this mandate, instead of respecting their deeply held religious beliefs, Secretary Sebelius insulted the Catholic Church by granting it a one-year extension to comply with the mandate.”

“The Obama Administration pretended to offer a compromise to this policy by requiring insurance companies providing policies to religious institutions to offer a separate coverage package to religious organization’s female employees covering contraceptives, sterilization and abortion drugs at no charge.  As anyone who has ever run a business or bought insurance knows, the cost for that package will be built into the organization’s policy.  This is the same rationale liberals have used to channel so much taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood, claiming that no one’s conscience is violated if the money is not directly spent on abortions,” it adds.

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.

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.