By Dave Andrusko
It took less than a nanosecond for pro-abortion Senate Democrats and their legion of media allies to thoroughly distort what took place yesterday on what sponsors euphemistically labeled the “Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act” (S. 2578).
National Right to Life cut through the fog this morning with a post that explained the significance of what happened when S. 2578 failed to receive the 60 votes needed to “invoke cloture” for the Senate to take up the bill–and why that was so important for single-issue pro-lifers.
It wasn’t at all surprising that proponents took square aim at religious freedom and conscience rights. As NRLC President Carol Tobias explained in testimony on another bill on Tuesday, what is properly called “conscience protection” is to pro-abortion advocacy groups nothing more than “refusal clauses.” Their contempt for the right of conscience is broad and deep, and they are angry that by allowing medical providers to refuse to collaborate in the killing of innocent members of the human family, it might reduce access to abortion.
Beyond respect for conscience rights, why is S. 2578 so important to National Right to Life? It involves something that NRLC warned about from the very beginning debates over the potential reach of ObamaCare.
At issue in last month’s Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby was that HHS mandated coverage of contraceptives as a “preventative service.”
What if in the future, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) chooses to add the abortion pill RU-486, or even elective abortion, including late abortions, to the list of mandated “preventive services”? One possible bulwark would be what the Supreme Court discussed extensively in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby: the “Religious Freedom and Restoration Act” (RFRA) enacted by Congress in 1993.
S. 2578 not only singles out RFRA, it would also override “any other provision of Federal law” that protects rights of conscience regarding health coverage mandates. Among the federal provisions that could be superseded by S. 2578 is the Hyde-Weldon Amendment, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2004 which protects health care providers who refuse to provide, pay for, provide coverage or, or refer for abortion.
(And, note, there would be nothing to prevent HHS from requiring coverage for, say, doctor-prescribed suicide, or anything else it chooses to classify as “preventive services.”)
Supporters argue S. 2578 was/is a necessary response to last month’s Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. At the time National Right to Life explained that while the 5-4 decision provided a modest victory for religious conscience rights, the ruling did not truly correct any of the major abortion-expanding problems created by Obamacare. (See “Narrow Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby underscores deeper abortion-expanding aspects of Obamacare”)
That includes not only the aforementioned overly expansive authority that the Obamacare law itself provides to HHS to define “preventive services,” but also the major abortion-expanding provisions of Obamacare, including the massive tax subsidies that will assist millions of Americans to purchase health plans that cover elective abortion. Those were not even issues in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.
Let me end with a necessary reform, as explained by NRLC this morning:
“Only comprehensive legislative reform can cure the multiple abortion-expanding components of Obamacare – and such reform can only be accomplished with new leadership in the U.S. Senate and in the White House.
“There is currently legislation in the Congress – the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (S. 1204 and H.R. 940) – that provides badly needed conscience protections for Americans who face an increasingly frequent use of coercive means – governmental and other – to compel participation in providing abortion and other procedures regardless of religious and moral objections. The bill would amend Obamacare to prevent the imposition of regulatory mandates that violate the religious or moral convictions of those who purchase or provide health insurance. The bill would also prevent any level of government from discriminating against health care providers, including doctors, nurses, hospitals, and insurers, who decline to participate in abortions. In addition, it would empower victims to seek relief in court for violations of the federal conscience laws.”