In a few months the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to take up the case of whether the President's new health care law is unconstitutional due to the individual mandate and $17 billion penalty on Americans who do not purchase health insurance. Public outrage over the constitutionality of the government's takeover of our health care system began even before Democrats rammed the bill through Congress and rightfully so. All Americans should be worried anytime the federal government tries to ignore our Constitution.
Unfortunately it is happening again. The new health care law includes a provision that mandates a list of essential health benefits that almost all health care plans must include and a list of preventive services that all health care plans must provide. Last week President Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the federal government will require faith-based employers, such as religiously affiliated charities, schools, universities, and hospitals to follow this mandate and so they will be forced to provide contraception services, services which they consider a violation of their faith. This includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and devices, and birth control.
The Obama Administration's rule is an attack on religious freedom. It undoes a standard of religious freedom in America that has been in place for more than 200 years. Faith-based organizations should not have to choose between providing their employees with insurance and violating their long held beliefs.
In reaction to the Administration's announcement, multiple lawsuits have been filed in federal court. In addition, the Speaker of the House has vowed that the House of Representatives will take appropriate steps to address the Administration's violation of religious liberties. So far over 160 bipartisan Members of Congress, including myself, are working hard to pass the "Respect for Rights of Conscience Act". This legislation amends the President's health care law to restore fundamental liberties by permitting a health plan to decline coverage of specific items and services that are contrary to the religious beliefs of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan or the purchaser or beneficiary without penalty.
In the face of such strong opposition, the President just announced a change to this mandate so that it supposedly now exempts some religiously-affiliated organizations from being forced to directly comply with the mandate. However, it still requires all health insurance plans to provide this coverage and many questions remain about the scope of the exemption. Furthermore, insurance companies are likely to pass the costs of these contraceptive services right back onto employers, including some of the very religious groups who oppose these services.
Republicans and Democrats alike are outraged with the Department of Health and Human Services recent decision. These overreaching actions are a blatant attack on Americans' First Amendment rights to freedom of religion. You can be assured that the House of Representatives will not stand idly by while the Administration tramples on the U.S. Constitution. As your Congressman, I will continue working hard to repeal and defund the new health care law, ensuring that the basic rights guaranteed by our Constitution are protected.