During questioning today by pro-abortion Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono, Judge Brett Kavanaugh defended his decision in a key case ruling against the Obama HHS mandate that forced Hobby Lobby, Little Sisters of the Poor and other Christian-run businesses and organizations to fund abortion drugs in their employee health care plans.
Priests for Life, a pro-life organization, was one of many that filed suit against the mandate and Kavanaugh ultimately sided with Priests for Life in its case against the HHS abortion mandate.The appeals court judge indicated the mandate was a substantial burden against the pro-life group’s religious views because it would have fined the pro-life group thousands upon thousands of dollars for failing to pay for abortion drugs.
“When the Government forces someone to take an action contrary to his or her sincere religious belief (here, submitting the form) or else suffer a financial penalty (which here is huge), the Government has substantially burdened the individual’s exercise of religion. So it is in this case,” Kavanaugh wrote.
During her questioning, Sen. Hirono complained that his ruling put Kavanaugh in the position of elevating religions rights ahead of the so-called unlimited right to an abortion.
Doesn’t the ruling assert that “the freedom of religion clause supersedes other rights?” Hirono asked.
“I made it clear in the decision that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has a two-part test,” he said about how the Obama HHS mandate violated federal laws protecting religious liberty.
Kavanaugh added, “I concluded that penalizing someone thousands and thousands of dollars for failing to fill out a form because of their religious beliefs was wrong.”
During previous questioning, Kavanaugh made it clear that the pro-life businesses and groups in question were opposed to being forced to pay for “abortion-inducing drugs.”
Kavanaugh replied to pro-life Senator Ted Cruz: “In that case, they said filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that they were, as a religious matter, objected to.”
Observers of the hearing on Twitter noticed the exchange:
Hirono: Do you think that freedom of religion supersedes other rights? [Arguing against K dissent in Priests for Life]
Hirono misstates substantial-burden analysis.
— Ed Whelan (@EdWhelanEPPC) September 6, 2018
Hirono: Because Kavanaugh followed religious liberty precedent on a contraception case (Priests for Life) and ruled that there’s no right for an illegal alien to get a taxpayer funded abortion, he just wants to “restrict women’s reproductive rights.”
— Nate Madden (@NateMaddenCRTV) September 6, 2018
Does Sen. Hirono have any serious questions? “Reproductive rights” are not real rights. That’s code for forcing others to pay for a woman’s abortion and contraception.
— American Life League (@AmerLifeLeague) September 6, 2018
Father Frank Pavone, National Director; Janet Morana, Executive Director, and Alveda King (niece of Martin Luther King, Jr.), full-time director of Civil Rights for the Unborn for Priests for Life, were named plaintiffs in the case. All of them informed LifeNews after his nomination that they support Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“Judge Kavanaugh understands the importance of religious liberty to all Americans,” Father Pavone said in comments to Lifenews. “That was clear in his dissenting opinion in our case, Priests for Life vs. HHS, which eventually made it to the Supreme Court. He’s exactly the kind of justice we need on the Supreme Court at this point in time.”
Sarah Pitlyk, a former law clerk to Judge Kavanaugh and special counsel for the Thomas More Society, which is a leading pro-life legal group, says Kavanaugh has an excellent record and perhaps the best record of any of the finalists president Trump is considering. As she writes about the Priests for Life case:
During the Obama administration, he voted in Priests for Life v. HHS to invalidate the so-called accommodation to the contraceptive mandate, which required religious organizations to sign a form facilitating access to contraceptives for their employees. Judge Kavanaugh was one of few federal judges (Neil Gorsuch was another) to hold that the law imposed a “substantial burden” on the organizations’ exercise of religious liberty, and one of even fewer to conclude that the contraceptive-mandate accommodation violated the law. The Supreme Court later vindicated his position by vacating decisions that upheld the contraceptive-mandate accommodation.