FACT: Obamacare’s Contraceptive Mandate Undermines Religious Freedom
With the Supreme Court’s decision to take up two cases challenging Obamacare’s HHS anti-conscience mandate, there is renewed attention on the mandate and on how it harms religious liberty in America.
Radio show hosts Leslie Marshall and Michael Graham debated the topic Monday morning on Fox News, specifically in reference to how Obamacare’s mandate harms the religious freedom of Catholic Christians in America.
Graham points out that Obamacare’s “one size fits all” approach to health insurance is the problem. He adds that there is a long standing tradition in America of employers being able to offer health insurance plans that do not violate their consciences and that individuals can, for a small additional fee, purchase additional coverage on their own for things like contraceptives.
The two Supreme Court cases in question challenging the anti-conscience mandate were brought by two families who are private employers. One is the Green family, who run Hobby Lobby, and the other is the Hahns family, who operate Conestoga Wood Specialties. The families argue that the HHS mandate violates their free exercise of religion.
After Court announced it would take up the cases, the Heritage Foundation explained why they’re hopeful that the Court will rule in their favor. It will be very burdensome for these families and companies to comply with the anti-conscience mandate. They would be forced to pay for coverage for abortion-inducing drugs such as the “morning after” and “week after” pills, regardless of their deeply held religious beliefs. If they do not comply, they face steep fines of up to $100 per employee per day, which could mean $1.3 million in fines per day for Hobby Lobby and up to $95,000 per day for Conestoga Wood. Clearly, “This choice jeopardizes the family businesses’ economic future and all the jobs they currently provide.”
Americans don’t forfeit their freedoms by going into business, and the anti-conscience mandate is inconsistent with the protection of religious freedom enshrined in the Bill of Rights and in laws such as RFRA.
Marshall attempts to argue that there may be some violation of the religious freedom of employees who are not offered plans by private employers that cover abortion inducing drugs, etc. She also uses the “slippery slope” argument, which indicates that religious employers may continue to demand exemptions from providing certain types of insurance coverage based on their religious beliefs.
To both of these arguments, Ramesh Ponnuru provides a rebuttal. First, to the pro-anti-conscience mandate argument (recently made by the New York Times) that private businesses and their owners are demanding an unprecedented right to impose the owners’ religious views on workers,” Ponnuru reminds us of the very recent past, when employers were not required by federal law or regulation to cover contraception or abortion inducing drugs:
Up until 2012, no federal law or regulation required employers to cover contraception (or drugs that may cause abortion, which one of the cases involves). If 2011 was marked by a widespread crisis of employers’ imposing their views on contraception on employees, nobody talked about it.
He adds that what is really going on is that the government is imposing a substantial burden on religious employers to advance a “compelling governmental interest” that is only dubiously compelling, and it is doing so in direct contradiction to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a Clinton-era law.
Is a marginal increase in access to contraception a compelling interest, and is levying steep fines on employers who refuse to provide it for religious reasons the least burdensome way to further it? It seems doubtful.
The RFRA says that “the government may impose a substantial burden on the exercise of religious belief only if it’s the least restrictive way to advance a compelling governmental interest” and adds that “no later law should be read to trump this protection unless it explicitly says it’s doing that,” which the Affordable Care Act doesn’t do.
As for the “slippery slope” argument, Ponnuru explains it’s hypothetical, not grounded in reality:
Supporters of the regulation are resorting, as Jessica Valenti does at the Nation, to the slippery-slope argument: What if your boss is a Jehovah’s Witness and he doesn’t want to cover blood transfusions? Again, though, it has been legal for employers in most places to make this decision for most of American history. Ever heard of anyone going without a transfusion for this reason? The problem is wholly hypothetical.
The truth, as Heritage noted recently, is this:
Americans have every reason to be concerned that the one-size-fits-all regime of Obamacare will restrict their ability to choose coverage for themselves and their families and run roughshod over their values. The law is a blank check for unelected bureaucrats to create complex rules that can trample on freedom.
Obamacare has given the federal government broad authority to decide what insurance companies must cover, employers must provide, and individuals must purchase. Americans’ choice of health care, coverage options, and religious freedom is now subject to the negotiations of bureaucrats.