The Obamacare Mandate

Last month, President Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius unveiled another new mandate. As part of Obamacare, all employers, regardless of religious affiliation, would be required to provide health insurance that includes contraceptive coverage with no co-pay. The coverage includes not only free birth control, but also extends to coverage for sterilizations and abortificients. Churches that provide health insurance for their employees of the same faith are exempt, but hospitals, schools and charities run by those same churches must provide the coverage for their employees.

Earlier today, the Senate voted to table (or “kill) an amendment offered by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) that would reverse this new mandate. The anti-conscience mandate – and the Senate’s failure to reverse it – reminds us of the dangers of government intervention and control, and serves as a stark reminder that we must repeal Obamacare in its entirely.

While many are demagogued the amendment with the deceptive “women’s health” argument, Senator Blunt’s amendment is actually nothing new or unique. The late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) introduced similar language into his Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was signed into law:

“A health care provider or a health facility shall not be required to provide an item or service under a group health plan or health insurance coverage if the provider or facility objects to doing so on the basis of a religious belief or moral conviction.”

Remember Hillarycare? In 1993 that failed government-run healthcare law even included language to protect religious freedom:

“Nothing in this title shall be construed to…prevent any employer from contributing to the purchase of a standard benefits package which excludes coverage of abortion or other services, if the employer objects to such services on the basis of a religious belief or moral conviction;”

Senator Blunt’s amendment basically combined the two:

“Nothing in this title (or any amendment made by this title) shall be construed to require an individual or institutional health care provider, or authorize a health plan to require a provider, to provide, participate in, or refer for a specific item or service contrary to the provider’s religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

This amendment was a prudent response to an outrageous breach of religious liberty. Basically, the Obama Administration was saying that if you cannot put your religious beliefs aside, you should get out of the business of helping the poor and the sick, or educating children. (President Obama believes these tasks are best left to big-government anyway.)

As this latest mandate received national attention and outrage grew, the Administration offered a supposed “accommodation,” wherein the church itself wouldn’t pay for the coverage, but the insurance providers would provide the coverage for free.

The “accommodation” never mattered anyway, because the final rule kept the original language, and not the “accommodation.”

President Obama, his allies on the left, and liberal media tried to turn this issue into one about contraception – even claiming that opponents are trying to “ban” contraception and waging a war on women’s health by blocking access to “preventive health care.”. This intentionally obscured the debate to make the argument not about religious freedom, but contraception.

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit summed up this logic thusly:

“It’s as if we passed a law requiring mosques to sell bacon and then, when people objected, responded by saying “What’s wrong with bacon? You’re trying to ban bacon!!!!””

Liberals distorted the entire religious freedom issue entirely and the increasingly prominent role that government is playing in our lives

Last week, in an attempt to refocus the debate on the real issues, Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) held a hearing on the Obamacare mandate and its attack on religious freedom. The hearing was literally titled “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?”

Unfortunately, his liberal colleagues refused to accept that the premise of the hearing was about religious freedom and not women’s access to contraception.  The fact that the mandate is about contraception has no bearing on whether the Obama Administration can force religious institutions to violate their beliefs.

After the defeat of the Blunt Amendment, we need to step back and realize the entire debate is about more than contraception and religious conscious. It is really about the proper role of government in our lives, and more specifically about Obamacare, which gives the government unparalleled power. They can dictate behavior of individuals, prescribe appropriate treatments and what level of care people need, and mandate entities take certain action.

The Obama administration wants every American to receive one-size-fits-all care, so that a 25 year-old would be required to purchase the same level of insurance as a 65 year-old, even though their needs are vastly different. It subsidizes one person’s health insurance by charging another person far more than they would actually need to pay if they entered the market without the law existing.

Until now, the individual mandate was the most vivid example of Obamacare’s overreach. And while it remains the most egregious example of Obamacare’s unconstitutionality, Americans can now see the inherent dangers of near far-reaching federal power. Mandates on individuals.  Mandates on business. Mandates on religious organizations.

Where does it end?

That is a question we don’t want to find the answer to, which is why Obamacare must be repealed in its entirety.

Related Links:
Heritage Action’s Scorecard
Heritage: Blunt the Attacks on Religious Liberty
Heritage: Senate to Vote Thursday on Conscience Protection Amendment
Heritage: Religious Liberty Under Attack
Heritage: Anti-Conscience Mandate: An Assault on the Constitution

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