Members of the Senate voted today on a mostly party-line vote to reaffirm the controversial HHS mandate, that compels religious groups to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs despite their religious or moral objections.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a pro-abortion Democrat from New Hampshire, filed an amendment to reaffirm the HHS mandate authorized under the Obamacare health care law. That amendment passed on a 56-43 vote (see below).
Democrats supported the HHS mandate along with pro-abortion Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Mark Kirk (Illinois) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) while pro-life Sen. Joe Manchin (West Virginia) was the only Democrat to vote with Republicans.
Shaheen said that her amendment makes sure a woman’s family planning decisions “are not dictated by government or her employer.”
“The United States has one of the highest rate of unintended pregnancies in the developed world,” Shaheen said. “Preventing unintended pregnancies just makes sense.”
But pro-life Sen. Mike Johanns, a Nebraska Republican, disagreed and said, “We must also protect the deeply religious beliefs in this country. This law tramples on the rights of individuals.”
Earlier this week, the nation’s Catholics bishops said the revised mandate is a horrible violation of religious freedom.
The general counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops states that the current proposed revisions of the Obama Administration’s contraceptive mandate are “an unprecedented …violation of religious liberty by the federal government” and must be changed.
The statement is in comments filed March 20 regarding the mandate, which requires most health plans in the United States to cover abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, sterilization procedures, and related education and counseling, which the USSCB strongly opposes.
The comments, made on the USCCB’s behalf by Anthony R. Picarello, USCCB associate general secretary and general counsel, and Michael F. Moses, associate general counsel, note a number of continuing problems with the regulations, which had been the subject of earlier rulemaking and comment by the USCCB.
Their comments follow:
First, like earlier iterations of the regulation, the latest proposal requires coverage of items and procedures that, unlike other mandated “preventive services,” do not prevent disease. Instead, they are associated with an increased risk of adverse health outcomes, including conditions that other “preventive services” are designed to prevent.
Second, no exemption or accommodation is available at all for the vast majority of individual or institutional stakeholders with religious or moral objections to contraceptive coverage. Virtually all Americans who enroll in a health plan will ultimately be required to have contraceptive coverage for themselves and their dependents, whether they want it or not.
Third, although the definition of an exempt “religious employer” has been revised to eliminate some of the intrusive and constitutionally improper government inquiries into religious teaching and beliefs that were inherent in an earlier definition, the current proposal continues to define “religious employer” in a way that, by the government’s own admission, excludes (and therefore subjects to the mandate) a wide array of employers that are undeniably religious. Generally the nonprofit religious organizations that fall on the “non-exempt” side of this religious gerrymander include those organizations that contribute most visibly to the common good through the provision of health, educational, and social services.
Fourth, the Administration has offered what it calls an “accommodation” for nonprofit religious organizations that fall outside its narrow definition of “religious employer.” The “accommodation” is based on a number of questionable factual assumptions. Even if all of those assumptions were sound, the “accommodation” still requires the objecting religious organization to fund or otherwise facilitate the morally objectionable coverage.
Fifth, the mandate continues to represent an unprecedented (and now sustained) violation of religious liberty by the federal government. As applied to individuals and organizations with a religious objection to contraceptive coverage, the mandate violates the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.
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The vote on today’s amendment follows:
Grouped By Vote Position
|Not Voting – 1|