New Bill Would Stop Obama Admin’s Assault on Religious Freedom

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 4, 2013   |   2:23PM   |   Washington, DC

Members of Congress have announced a press conference for tomorrow, during which they will announce a new major bill to stop the Obama administration’s assault on pro-life religious freedom via the HHS mandate.

Congressmen Diane Black (R-TN), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and John Fleming, M.D. (R-LA), are behind the introduction of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (HCCRA) that would protect Americans’ First Amendment rights and would stop the Obama Administration’s HHS mandate from forcing religious groups to pay for drugs that may cause abortions in their employee health care plans.

“HCCRA offers reprieve from ongoing violations of our First Amendment, including full exemption from the Obama Administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate and conscience protection for individuals and health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer patients to abortion providers because of their deeply-held, reasoned beliefs,” they told LifeNews about the new bill.

“Under the health care coverage mandate issued on August 3, 2011, widely known as the HHS mandate, organizations and their managers are now facing potentially ruinous financial penalties for exercising their First Amendment rights, as protected by law. Hobby Lobby, a family business that was denied injunctive relief from the mandate and faces fines of up to $1.3 million dollars a day, unless its owners agree to fund potentially abortion-inducing drugs. If Hobby Lobby is forced to close its doors, some 25,000 jobs nationwide may disappear,” the lawmakers added.

They told LifeNews: “The Obama Administration’s HHS mandate exemption only includes houses of worship and does not account for the thousands of religious and non-religious affiliated employers that find it a moral hazard to cover sterilization, contraception and potentially abortion-inducing drugs on their employer-based health insurance. Ultimately, the so-called “accommodation” does not protect anyone’s religious rights, because all companies and organizations will still be forced to provide insurance coverage that includes services which conflict with their religious convictions. The HCCRA would address this violation of our First Amendment rights by providing a full exemption for all those whose religious beliefs run counter to the Administration’s HHS mandate.”

The bill not only covers the mandate but also provides protection for medical professionals who refuse to be involved with the performance of abortions. The HCCRA also protects institutions and individuals from forced or coerced participation in abortion, they said.

“In recent years there have been several examples of nurses being told they must participate in abortions. There have also been efforts to require Catholic Hospitals to do abortions, and a Catholic social service provider was denied a grant to assist victims of human trafficking on the basis of their pro-life convictions,” the members of Congress explained.

“The HCCRA codifies and clarifies the appropriations provision known as the Hyde‐Weldon conscience clause. This is accomplished by adding the protections for health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer for abortion to the section of the Public Health Service Act known as the Coats Amendment. It also adds the option of judicial recourse for victims whose rights have been violated under the HCCRA, Coats, or the conscience clauses known as the Church amendments,” they said.

The Health Care Conscience Rights Act also provides health care entities with protection against discriminatory practices for refusing to provide, pay for or refer for abortion. The legislation will enable nurses, doctors, hospitals, all health care professionals and organizations, to work in their field of expertise and to abide by their conscience.

“Third, our legislation offers victims of discrimination the ability to vindicate their rights in court without needing to exhaust possible remedies through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS has not been impartial in these decisions, leading to elongated and unnecessary delays for those seeking relief,” they added.

The legislation already has the support of pro-life advocates, including the Family Research Council, Susan B. Anthony List and others.

FRC will host a news conference at the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday which will include FRC President Tony Perkins and FRC Executive Vice President Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin. They will be joined by Janet Parshall, radio host for Moody Radio, and Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Last year FRC hosted a news conference at the NRB convention to release a petition signed by over 2,500 religious leaders in opposition to the HHS mandate.