Day One: Obama HHS Mandate Violates Religious Liberty

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 1, 2012   |   1:25PM   |   Washington, DC

The Obamacare HHS mandate takes effect today that requires Americans to violate their religious beliefs to implement the president’s health care law. The mandate compels religious employers to pay for and refer women for abortion-causing drugs, birth control, contraception and sterilizations.

The mandate has drawn significant opposition from Catholic, Protestant and evangelical groups, pro-life organizations and others concerned that it includes no conscience protections for employers that don’t want to be required to pay for or refer women for drugs that end life and violate their faith.

House Speaker John Boehner and top Republicans have also challenged Obama on the mandate and Boehner spoke out against it today.

“On this day, let us renew our determination to reverse the mandate and restore the religious liberty that has been demolished by the Obama Administration’s actions,” he said.

“The administration’s mandate stands today not because it is sound policy; not because it reflects the will of the people; not because it is consistent with the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution,” he added. “The mandate stands today because the Democratic-controlled Senate preemptively blocked legislation that would have reversed this attack on religious freedom.  And it stands because the President of the United States has refused to listen to the people and institutions that built a great nation.”

“As I noted last week: whether the administration’s attack on religious freedom is reversed through judicial action, legislative action or other means, it must be reversed.  And last week’s court ruling provided the surest sign that it will be reversed.  The freedoms that define us as a nation have stood the test of time — and they can outlast any form of tyranny, as long as the American people, who hold the true power in this country, remain committed to them,” he added.

Americans United for Life called the mandate a “payout for the abortion industry.”

“Last year, the Obama Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under the clear influence of Planned Parenthood, announced that it was defining the “preventive services” provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to include “all FDA approved contraceptives.” As AUL has repeatedly documented, adopting such a broad definition forces private health insurance plans to fully-cover, without a co-pay, life-ending drugs and devices, including ella, an abortion-inducing drug,” it said.

“Despite the knowledge that mandated coverage for a drug like ella violates the religious beliefs and moral principles of many Americans, the Obama Administration has refused to offer sufficient solutions to a serious problem. Putting its loyalty to the abortion industry above all else, HHS has not budged,” it said. “Today, the pay-out to the abortion business begins.”

AUL indicates that, by design, the mandate has a “rolling” start. With each passing month, more plans will be infected with forced coverage for life-ending drugs and devices. One year from today, the so-called “safe harbor” for certain religious non-profit organizations expires.

At that point, employers will begin facing heavy fines that could cause them major financial problems. Organizations that refuse to comply could be fined enormous amounts of money, as much as $100 per day per employee.

Family Research Council Action (FRC Action) Senior Vice President Tom McClusky said “Obama has made clear, in his legislation, public remarks and his lawsuits, that he believes religion and conscience should take a back seat to his pro-abortion, -sterilization and -contraception agenda.”

The has been one positive ruling in a case allowing a company to be exempted from the Obamacare HHS mandate and dozens of cases continued seeking to overturn the mandate in its entirety, McClusky said.

“The President might think that violating one’s conscience ‘is not a big deal’ but to many Americans it is impossible. If the courts or Congress will not address this grave injustice, civil disobedience will be inevitable,” he added.

A memo from the Catholic Association explains how the ruling was a positive step but not sufficient to stop the mandate nationwide.

“Last week, a federal court dealt a major blow to the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate requiring employers to provide contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs in their healthcare plans,” it said. ” In the first-ever legal victory against the mandate, the court granted a temporary injunction to the family-owned Hercules Industries in Colorado. The Obama administration argued that employers have no conscience rights if they engage in a for-profit business, and therefore the business owners — the Newland family – ought to be subject to millions of dollars in fines per year for non-compliance.”

“While this was a significant victory, it is only applies to the Newlands, and it is only temporary. The livelihood and religious freedom of countless other private employers hangs in the balance on August 1,” the Catholic Association continued.

The mandate adversely affects three categories of businesses and organizations in different ways and the Catholic Association spells them out:

Category 1: For-Profit Employers

For-profit private employers do not qualify for the one-year safe harbor and are thus completely unprotected as of August 1. This is especially harmful to small and family-owned businesses that tend to have boutique or custom insurance plans to conform to religious or value-oriented workplace cultures. Many businesses are suing the Obama administration seeking immediate relief from the August 1 deadline. The penalty for non-compliance is $100 per day, per employee. For the Newland family business, the fines would add up to millions of dollars per year.

Category 2: Groups in Limbo

Some employers do not yet know if they qualify for the safe harbor. They may only object to some but not all of the services – for example, the evangelical college Wheaton, which has also filed suit against the Administration, objects to abortion-causing drugs but not contraception. These employers are left completely in the dark as to what will happen to them on August 1 and whether or not they will be slapped with crippling fines.

Category 3: Religiously Affiliated Employers

Objecting employers with a religious affiliation are essentially left with one year to scramble. The so-called accommodation, which has not been implemented, was widely rejected as an accounting gimmick. Even Sister Carol Keehan, the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association (and a supporter of the President’s health care plan), originally supported the accommodation but after closer examination, called it unacceptable and unworkable. These religious entities are left with no option but to wait one more year before they have to begin violating the teachings of their faith or pay severe fines.


There are currently over 20 lawsuits pending around the country against the HHS mandate. Federal judges have dismissed two other lawsuits filed against the mandate.

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.