“NO” on the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act

This week, the Senate will vote on the misleadingly named Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act (S. 2578). Introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), the bill is in reaction to the June Supreme Court ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwellwhich granted closely-held family businesses relief from being forced to comply with the HHS anti-conscience mandate if they have a religious objection. Specifically, the Murray-Udall bill would force employers like the Greens of Hobby Lobby and the Hahns of Conestoga Wood Specialties to provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs and devices and “would also prohibit employers from seeking relief from any federal health care mandate — no matter how coercive the rule or controversial the procedure.”

The Court affirmed that family businesses’ religious freedoms are protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), applying the law to Obamacare’s HHS anti-conscience mandate. The Heritage Foundation’s Sarah Torre explains how RFRA balances compelling government interests with the fundamental right to the free exercise of religion:

Passed by unanimous voice vote in the House and 97-3 in the Senate, the [RFRA] prohibits substantial burdens on religious exercise unless the government can show a compelling interest in burdening religious liberty and does so through the least restrictive way possible. Congress included religious organizations and businesses in the law’s protections and its delicate balancing test has served the country well for more than 20 years.

HHS deemed it a “critical public-policy goal to ensure all women have access to contraception at no cost to them.”  The Hahns and Greens had no objection to providing coverage for 16 out of 20 FDA-approved drugs and devices, but were forced under the anti-conscience mandate to include the “four that have a potential to end human life” or face crippling fines.

The Supreme Court ruled this requirement is not permissible under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) since it is not the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling government interest.  Heritage notes:

RFRA has not, like Murray and others claim, offered a blank check for religious believers to do whatever they want in the name of religion. Neither did the Court’s decision last week… Nor did the Supreme Court’s decision strike down the HHS mandate, as Murray and others claim.  Non-grandfathered health plans must still include coverage of all FDA-approved contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and devices, and sterilization.

As the Supreme Court noted in its Hobby Lobby ruling, Congress could have chosen numerous other less burdensome options to advance the alleged compelling government interest of providing women with free abortion-inducing drugs and contraceptives — and they could have done so without undermining the religious liberty of employers as defined by the First Amendment and protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The Murray-Udall bill “would essentially exempt all federal health care mandates from the protections afforded by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act” and allow the administration to trample on the religious freedom of families like the Greens and Hahns who are trying to run their businesses in accordance with their religious beliefs.

The Murray-Udall bill “could also affect the freedom of non-profit employers like religious schools and charities,” Heritage adds.  As long as Obamacare is the law of the land, government bureaucrats will have the “authority to decide the details of insurance plans, dictating what employers must offer and individuals must purchase.”

The government has already exempted 100 million employees from the anti-conscience mandate for commercial and political reasons. The Murray-Udall bill is allegedly designed to keep employers out of their employees’ health care decisions, but it in fact forces employers to get involved in these decisions and seriously violates their fundamental right to religious freedom in the process.

Heritage Action opposes S. 2578 and will include it as a vote on our legislative scorecard.

Related links:

Heritage Action Scorecard
Hobby Lobby Does Want Bosses Out of the Bedroom. Why Are These Liberal Senators Against That?
The Religious Liberty Law That Protected Hobby Lobby From Government Coercion
This Law Makes Sure Big Government Can’t Crush Religious Freedom
Care About Religious Liberty?  Meet the Most Important Law You’ve Never Heard Of
Q&A: How the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby Decision Affects Obamacare