U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-3) issued the following statement on the Department of Health and Human Service's latest proposal to amend the rule announced last year that requires all employers to provide insurance that includes coverage of abortion drugs, sterilization, and contraceptives. This is the second time the Obama Administration has announced a change in the rule that is supposed to "accommodate" those employers who do not want to implement part of the HHS mandate that would force them to violate their personal religious convictions.
"I continue to be disappointed and, frankly, puzzled by the administration's second proposed "accommodation' for employers who have objections to parts of the HHS mandate based on their religious beliefs. After a year of consideration by HHS, this proposal appears to do little more than the inadequate one announced last year and would still require employers to provide coverage for abortion drugs, sterilization, and contraception even if doing so violated their conscience and religious beliefs. Despite the fact that this proposed rule is 80 pages long, it still leaves many questions unanswered about which religious organizations may be exempted from the mandate and how exactly the mandate will be implemented. It seems we will not know that until the rule is finalized in April. But this proposal does make it perfectly clear that the Administration does not understand religious liberty to be the right of individuals to practice their beliefs and many employers will still have their religious liberty violated by this rule no matter what is done in the next two months to clarify it.
As the Chicago Tribune accurately pointed out in its Feb. 3 editorial, the latest rewording of the mandate is "all an attempt to conceal the blatant reality that religiously affiliated employers will be implicated, financially and otherwise, in the provision of something they find morally objectionable. It's another fig leaf and, again, it's not convincing.'
The bottom line remains that the fundamental First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion preserves the right for any employer to not be forced to participate in activities that go against their beliefs. Religious liberty in America cannot be compromised. As the Tribune editorial noted: "That's precisely the sort of thing the First Amendment was written to prevent. It is a vital mandate that the Obama administration should respect -- but, with every so-called compromise on this issue, stubbornly flouts.'"