Washington State Bill Would Force Christian Businesses to Pay for Health Care Plans That Cover Abortion

State   |   Alliance Defending Freedom   |   Feb 23, 2018   |   5:24PM   |   Olympia, WA

Alliance Defending Freedom warned state legislators Thursday that a bill to mandate employer coverage of so-called “emergency contraception” and other life-ending drugs and devices is unconstitutional, unjust, and unnecessary. The legislation would force individuals and employers to choose to either follow their deeply held beliefs under threat of punishment or submit to the mandate that violates their consciences.

The warning, which came in response to the House Judiciary Committee’s public hearing on Senate-approved Bill 6102, explained how the bill would require employers to pay for health insurance plans that cover all FDA-approved contraception, including certain life-terminating drugs and devices such as “emergency contraception” and IUDs. Those with conscientious objections to helping facilitate what they believe to be the termination of life would be subject to enforcement action by the state’s Human Rights Commission and even costly lawsuits.

“Americans don’t surrender their freedom of conscience by opening a business,” said ADF Senior Counsel Denise Burke. “In the 2014 Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell case, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that all Americans, including family business owners, must be free to live and work consistently with their beliefs without fear of government punishment. This freedom of conscience means they cannot be forced to participate in distributing potentially life-terminating drugs and devices.”

In her written testimony, Burke explained that no legal precedent exists establishing a constitutional right to have others pay for an individual’s use of or access to contraception or life-terminating drugs and devices, and that “therefore any purported right that SB 6102 attempts to create is clearly subservient to the well-recognized First Amendment freedom of conscience.”

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Burke’s written testimony added that the Senate bill ignores an increasing number of federal and state measures aimed at protecting freedom of conscience.

“In 2000, Congress passed a law requiring the District of Columbia to include a conscience clause protecting religious beliefs and moral convictions in any contraceptive mandate…,” Burke wrote. “In October 2017, the federal government issued interim final rules expanding the contraceptive coverage exemption to the Affordable Care Act mandate to include nearly any for-profit entity that has moral or religious objections to providing their employees with contraceptive services. Further, the laws of 12 states provide conscience protections for healthcare providers in the provision of contraception…”