On August 1, 2011, the United States Department of Health and Human Services approved a new guideline forcing insurers to cover all FDA approved birth control, including drugs such as the ella drug, which can cause abortion. The token exemption for certain religious employers does not protect those who may have conscientious objections to the guideline mandate, to say nothing of the massive increase in costs, both in terms of how the policy will impact insurance coverage and the litigation that will no doubt ensue with respect to conscience rights.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) mandates insurance coverage of preventative care, contraceptives now being included in that classification under the new regulation. Several states have similar laws mandating coverage of contraceptives, but insurers deemed by the state not to fit within the religious exemption may drop prescription coverage altogether as an alternative to violating their beliefs.
California’s prescription drug coverage of contraception was litigated Catholic Charities of Sacramento v. Superior Court. The California Supreme Court upheld the rule and disallowed the religious exemption claimed by Catholic Charities because they provide social services and not merely religious teaching. A similarly narrow exemption is included in the HHS guideline. The exemption was described in the dissenting opinion in Catholic Charities by Justice Janice Brown as “such a crabbed and constricted view of religion that it would define the ministry of Jesus Christ as a secular activity.”
While little if any relief is likely to be forthcoming from the Obama administration responsible for this new attack on conscience, the solution might come from Congress. The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act—H.R. 1179 and S. 1467—would ensure that Obamacare’s mandates, such as “preventative services,” cannot be used to violate Americans’ rights of conscience.
LLDF joins pro-life groups in Washington, D.C. in supporting the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. It’s time for Congress to act to protect freedom of conscience for all Americans.
Action Item: Urge your Member of Congress and Senators to support the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. You can contact your leaders through the Family Research Council’s online action page.