On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores that the HHS contraceptive mandate cannot be used to force a family business to provide coverage for drugs and devices that violates the family members’ religious convictions. The Court relied on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1993. Legal challenges by non-profit religious groups are still pending.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) has introduced a bill (S. 2578) that would not only reverse Hobby Lobby, but would range more broadly. It negates any right that employers, insurers or employees may have, under RFRA or any other federal law, to opt out of federally mandated coverage. The Senate may vote on this anti-conscience bill as early as Wednesday, July 16. Please contact your Senators today!
- Send e-mails through NCHLA’s Action Center. Click here.
- Contact your Senators by phone. Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or call Senators’ local offices. Full contact info is on Senators’ web sites at: www.senate.gov.
Suggested Message: “Please vote against the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act (S. 2578). This misnamed measure would revoke conscience rights now guaranteed by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and other federal laws. In the future it could empower federal officials to mandate abortion or any other item in all health plans, forcing Americans to violate their deeply held religious and moral beliefs on respect for human life.”
When: The Senate may vote as early as Wednesday, July 16. Please contact your Senators today!
Sen. Murray’s bill states that an employer has no right to opt out of a federal mandate for any specific benefit, for any employees or their “covered dependents.” In the future this could include RU-486 or elective surgical abortions. Employees themselves, and women and men buying individual coverage, also have no right to object. The Act overrides RFRA and “any other provision of Federal law” that gets in the way. Crippling penalties could be imposed on sponsors and issuers of insurance who provide generous coverage, but object in conscience to a specific “item or service.” The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urges Senators to oppose S. 2578. See: nchla.org/datasource/idocuments/071414LoriOMalleyLtrMurrayUdallBill.pdf.
The HHS mandate requires health plans to cover all FDA-approved prescription contraceptives, female sterilization, and “counseling and education” promoting these to women and minor girls. It allows only a very narrow religious exemption, chiefly for “houses of worship.” Nonprofit religious groups serving the vulnerable, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, receive only an “accommodation” requiring them to authorize their insurer or third-party administrator to provide the objectionable items. In its Hobby Lobby decision, the Supreme Court allowed an opt-out for family businesses with religious objections (the objection in this case being to drugs or devices that can be abortifacient); other cases are pending. But S. 2578 would nullify laws to protect anyone’s conscience, once the federal government decides to mandate coverage of any item. Even the “exemption” and “accommodation” on contraception could be modified only in ways that serve the bill’s purpose of maximizing mandated coverage. For more information: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/S-2578-Backgrounder.pdf.