Revised Obama Mandate Doesn’t Promote Conscience Rights

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 12, 2012   |   4:56PM   |   Washington, DC

In comments filed this week with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Family Research Council expressed strong opposition to the HHS and Obama administration’s “contraceptive mandate” which forces all health insurance plans to include abortifacient drugs and contraceptives.

The Obama administration issued the mandate earlier this year to much opposition and eventually indicated it would propose revisions to the mandate that would supposedly provide more accommodations for religious groups. The official comments FRC submitted say those revisions fail to address the massive conscience rights and religious rights problems groups have with the HHS mandate.

Jeanne Monahan, director of FRC’s Center for Human Dignity, said the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), to which FRC’s comments respond, would do nothing to expand religious freedom.

“Family Research Council strongly opposes the February 10 rule mandating drugs and services which violate the moral and religious tenets of many Americans. The accounting gimmicks HHS is now considering under the ANPRM still do not satisfy the religious freedom protections that exist in current law,” Monahan explains. “The ANPRM does not expand religious freedom; it does nothing to change the final rule. HHS is still demanding that religious employers violate their beliefs by paying for insurance plans that offer, for free, the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives. This mandate includes drugs and devices with mechanisms of action that can destroy rather than prevent life.”

Monahan added: “Regardless of whether the insurance company or third party administrators use their dollars for an employee’s free abortifacients, the provision of these drugs and devices still necessarily depend on the religious employer’s health insurance plan. Therefore, the HHS mandate still violates the Religious Freedom Act, and the Weldon conscience amendment which bans HHS from engaging in precisely this type of discrimination.”

“The mandate does not protect women’s health. Rather, it threatens it by forcing religious employers into the untenable choice of violating their conscience or dropping health coverage for families and women they employ. Since HHS and the Obama administration appear to be unwilling to protect religious liberty, Congress must act again to preserve the constitutional right of religious freedom,” concluded Monahan.

Last February, more than 2,500 religious leaders from across the country signed a letter in opposition to the HHS mandate.

A May 2012 poll conducted by Marist College and released by the Knights of Columbus showed a majority of Americans oppose the controversial Obama HHS mandate that forces religious groups to pay for drugs that may cause abortions.

According to the Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll, nearly three in four Americans (74 to 26 percent) say that freedom of religion should be protected, even if it conflicts with other laws. Majorities would also protect the First Amendment conscience rights of hospitals, health care workers and insurers.

Strong majorities would let individual health care providers and organizations opt out of providing: abortion (58 to 38 percent), abortion-inducing drugs (51 to 44 percent), in vitro fertilization treatments that could result in the death of an embryo (52 to 41 percent), medication to speed the death of a terminally ill patient (55 to 41 percent) and birth control pills (51 to 46 percent).

The number supporting the right to opt out of providing birth control is particularly interesting given the fact that more than eight in 10 Americans (88 percent) believe contraception is morally acceptable.

March 2012 polling released by New York Times/CBS found Americans strongly oppose the new HHS mandate and favor a broad exemption for religious groups and employers who do not want to pay for birth control drugs or drugs that may cause abortions.

The survey revealed that, by a 50-41 percentage point margin, Americans say all employers should not have to cover birth control or potentially abortion-causing drugs while a larger 57-36 percentage point margin say religious employers should not be forced to provide coverage.

When asked “Should health insurance plans for all employees have to cover the full cost of birth control for female employees or should employers be able to opt out for moral or religious reasons?” even women favor the opt-out on a 46-44 percent plurality. That margin for women increased to a 53-38 margin for “religiously affiliated employers, such as a hospital or university.”

Men favored opting out by a 20 point margin (57 vs. 37), and that percentage jumped to a 25-point spread for an opt out when religious employers were mentioned.

A February Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found 38 percent of likely voters think health insurance companies should be required by law to cover the morning after pill without co-payments or other charges to the patient. But 50 percent of Americans disagreed and opposed this requirement while 13 percent are undecided.

“That’s less support than the 43% who believe health insurers should be required to provide free contraception in general,” pollster Scott Rasmussen noted. “Only 39% are opposed to the policy of providing free contraceptive services, 11 points lower than opposition to mandated coverage of the morning after pill.”

Looking deeper into the results of the new survey, Ramussen reports that female voters are only slightly more supportive than male voters of requiring health insurance companies to provide emergency contraception for free. Sixty-five percent (65%) of Democrats say health insurers should be required to provide the morning after pill for free. Seventy-two percent (72%) of Republicans and 54% of voters not affiliated with either party oppose such a policy.



Just 11% think requiring health insurance companies to cover the cost of the morning after pill will reduce the cost of health insurance. Forty-nine percent (49%) say the mandate will increase the cost of health insurance, while 31% believe it will have no impact, according to the new survey released today.

That survey followed a previous Rasmussen poll asking, “The requirement to provide contraceptives for women violates deeply held beliefs of some churches and religious organizations. If providing such coverage violates the beliefs of a church or religious organization, should the government still require them to provide coverage for contraceptives?”

Some 50 percent of those polled said no while 39 percent of Americans agreed.