House Republicans Introduce Health Care Conscience Act to Counter HHS Mandate
Three House Republicans introduced a bill on Tuesday that protects religious nonprofits and business owners from the HHS mandate, a provision in ObamaCare that requires them to provide free contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients in their employee insurance plans.
The Health Care Conscience Rights Act (HCCRA), introduced by Reps. Diane Black (R-TN), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and John Fleming, M.D. (R-LA), would protect the First Amendment rights of companies such as Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned family business that faces fines up to $1.3 million dollars per day due to the mandate, unless its owners agree to fund drugs that could cause abortions. If Hobby Lobby is forced to close, approximately 25,000 employees will lose their jobs.
The Obama administration’s HHS mandate exemption applies only to houses of worship and does not include religious or non-religious affiliated employers that find it morally objectionable to cover contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. The HCCRA would address this violation of First Amendment rights by exempting all whose religious beliefs conflict with the HHS mandate.
In a brief that responded to the lawsuit brought against the Obama administration by Hobby Lobby, the Department of Justice said in October of last year:
Hobby Lobby is a for-profit, secular employer, and a secular entity by definition does not exercise religion. Even if a secular entity could exercise religion within the meaning of [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] RFRA, the preventive services coverage regulations still do not substantially burden the company’s or its owners’ exercise of religion for an independent reason: any burden caused by the regulations is simply too attenuated to qualify as a substantial burden.
According to a press release, the HCCRA has 50 original co-sponsors.
Rep. Black, who has been a nurse for over 40 years, said:
Under the Obama administration, we have seen an unprecedented growth in the size and scope of government. The administration has leveraged its expansion of government to trample on the religious freedom of private individuals, hospitals, non-profits, businesses, churches and universities- forcing many Americans to make an impossible choice: either defy your religious convictions or break the law and face financially-crippling legal penalties.
In addition, the HCCRA would prevent healthcare providers from being forced to participate in abortions or facilitate them.
“No American should be forced to choose between their faith and their job,” Rep. Fortenberry said.