Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are embroiled in a battle over the continuing resolution to fund the federal government. One reason why the two sides can’t agree on a bill to fund the government has to do with policy riders — and one specifically that would protect pro-life groups from having to pay for abortions.
Republicans are pushing a pro-life policy rider that would protect companies like Hobby Lobby from having to pay for abortions in their health care plans. But to Democrats, whose sacred cow is abortion, that’s not acceptable. In face, the number two Democrat had some harsh words for the pro-life rider.
Mikulski also highlighted a GOP “Hobby Lobby” rider as particularly damaging. The provision, initially included by House appropriators in their fiscal 2016 Labor-HHS-Education bill (HR 3020), would provide a legal path for health providers and organizations to sue a government entity that punishes them if they refuse to provide access to abortion-related services.
Past appropriations bills (PL 113-235) have prohibited the government from discriminating against health care providers for not providing such services, but the language would provide a new legal path for organizations to sue in court.
The provision is already giving some senior Democrats heartburn.
So what did Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin say about including the pro-life protections?
“Just heard about it for the first time today, and if they try to do it, all hell will break loose,” Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat and a senior appropriator, said of the provision. “You can imagine. The phrase ‘Hobby Lobby’ perks up the ears of many members of the Senate.”
Congressman Joe Pitts, a Pennsylvania Republican, says protecting the conscience rights of pro-life people is important.
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“Last summer, the Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that closely-held companies—companies like Conestoga Wood that are family-owned or owned by just a few individuals—could not be forced to pay for all 19 forms of contraception,” he said. ”
But the Court was careful to keep the ruling narrow, and so it did not affect non-profits like the Little Sisters of the Poor. Non-profits especially have a claim to religious liberty because so many of them exist solely because of beliefs. Make the Salvation Army give up its beliefs and you make it give up everything. Make Lutheran Services stop being Lutheran and you take away their reason for existing. Make Mennonite Charities stop being Mennonite and you might as well put them out of business.”
“The Administration is so eager to force people to pay for other people’s contraceptives that even the so-called “accommodation” they provide to conscientious objectors is subject to litigation. These companies don’t directly pay, but instead have to direct their insurance company to pay,” he said.
“Religious liberty is fundamentally about tolerance. It is about how we live together as a society. Any majority that feels the need to force its beliefs on an innocent minority does not have the confidence of faith,” Pitts continued. ”
Religious liberty is a universal human right, but it especially foundational to the American idea: without it, we fundamentally change the relationship of the government and the people. In a constitutional Republic like ours, the People sit in judgment of the government. It’s a government by the People and for the People.”