Today, Congressmen Diane Black (R-TN), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and John Fleming, M.D. (R-LA) held a press conference to announce the introduction of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (HCCRA). This legislation would protect Americans' First Amendment rights and would stop the Obama Administration's assault on religious freedom. HCCRA offers reprieve from ongoing violations of our First Amendment, including full exemption from the Obama Administration's Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate and conscience protection for individuals and health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer patients to abortion providers because of their deeply-held, reasoned beliefs. HCCRA has 50 original co-sponsors.
"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. As a nurse for more than 40 years, I am proud to introduce the Health Care Conscience Rights Act to protect religious freedom, disempower Obamacare, and stop the administration's assault on Americans' First Amendment rights," said Congressman Black.
As a family physician who has treated thousands of patients during more than 30 years of practicing medicine, the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship is invaluable. Health care workers are dedicated to caring for their patients, and the religious freedom of these health care workers, and providers alike, must be protected. No individual should be forced or coerced to perform an abortion. Likewise, neither non-profit nor for-profit businesses, universities or other health care providers should be required to cover drugs that can lead to the destruction of human life. This legislation protects the First Amendment rights of the American health care community by allowing them to refuse to participate in procedures that violate their deeply held beliefs," said Congressman Fleming.
"We have come together to act to protect Americans' most basic rights - our rights of conscience and religious freedom. The bill simply restores the basic rights in health care that were widely accepted before the implementation of the new health care law, said Congressman Jeff Fortenberry.
Several victims of the Obama Administration's assault on religious freedom also spoke at today's press conference in support of HCCRA including:
· Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, RN - New York State nurse who filed suit after her freedom to serve patients according to her conscience was violated. For more information, click here.
· Susan Elliott, PhD, Director and Professor at Biola University Nursing Department. For more information, click here.
· Christine Ketterhagen, Co-Owner/Board Member of Hercules Industries, Inc.; Andy Newland, President of Hercules Industries; Bill Newland, Chairman of the Board of Hercules Industries. For more information, click here
· Sister Jane Marie Klein, OSF, Chairperson of the Board of Franciscan Alliance, Inc. (in Mishawaka, IN). Franciscan Alliance is a co-plaintiff with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Background on provisions in the Health Care Conscience Rights Act:
Under the health care coverage mandate issued on August 3, 2011, widely known as the HHS mandate, organizations and their managers are now facing potentially ruinous financial penalties for exercising their First Amendment rights, as protected by law. Hobby Lobby, a family business that was denied injunctive relief from the mandate and faces fines of up to $1.3 million dollars a day, unless its owners agree to fund potentially abortion-inducing drugs. If Hobby Lobby is forced to close its doors, some 25,000 jobs nationwide may disappear. The Obama Administration's HHS mandate exemption only includes houses of worship and does not account for the thousands of religious and non-religious affiliated employers that find it a moral hazard to cover sterilization, contraception and potentially abortion-inducing drugs on their employer-based health insurance. Ultimately, the so-called "accommodation" does not protect anyone's religious rights, because all companies and organizations will still be forced to provide insurance coverage that includes services which conflict with their religious convictions. The HCCRA would address this violation of our First Amendment rights by providing a full exemption for all those whose religious beliefs run counter to the Administration's HHS mandate.
The HCCRA also protects institutions and individuals from forced or coerced participation in abortion. In recent years there have been several examples of nurses being told they must participate in abortions. There have also been efforts to require Catholic Hospitals to do abortions, and a Catholic social service provider was denied a grant to assist victims of human trafficking on the basis of their pro-life convictions. The HCCRA codifies and clarifies the appropriations provision known as the Hyde‐Weldon conscience clause. This is accomplished by adding the protections for health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer for abortion to the section of the Public Health Service Act known as the Coats Amendment. It also adds the option of judicial recourse for victims whose rights have been violated under the HCCRA, Coats, or the conscience clauses known as the Church amendments.