Rep. Grimm Voices Strong Opposition to anti-Religious Obamacare Mandate

Feb 6, 2012 Issues: Health

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Rep. Michael Grimm (R,C-NY) joined colleagues in sending a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius strongly opposing the rule mandating religious-affiliated organizations that offer health insurance to cover contraceptives, sterilizations, abortificacients, even it is a clear violation of their beliefs and conscience rights.

“As a Roman Catholic, I strongly believe in preserving the sanctity of human life, and this mandate completely violates that belief. I will not tolerate the Obama Administration’s efforts to challenge the conscience and reproductive rights of the Catholic Church, and will do all I can to ensure that this mandate is overturned. As Americans, we are fortunate to have the right to exercise our religious beliefs free of government intervention, and this case is no exception.”

Recently, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently announced that, beginning in 2013, any organization that offers health insurance to its employees will be forced to cover contraceptives, sterilizations and abortifacients regardless of their objections. During the public comment period, HHS received over 200,000 comments on the rule. Many of the comments cited clear objections to this mandate, and yet, no additional conscience protections were provided when the final decision was made. This decision raises concerns about the level of effort involved in the reading and evaluating of the comments submitted.

Although there is a “religious exemption,” religious-affiliated organizations, such as schools, hospitals, and charities, do not meet the narrow criteria. In response to Secretary Sebelius’s decision, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated, “Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights.”

This mandate violates the conscience rights of any organization or individual that, for moral reasons, opposes abortion due to the mandatory coverage of drugs such as Plan B and Ella.

The text of the letter is below:

February 6, 2012

Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
United States Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

As pro-life Members of Congress, we are writing to voice our strong opposition to your final decision on the rule for mandatory contraceptive, sterilization, and abortifacients coverage in the individual and group health insurance market. This mandate will force religious-affiliated organizations that offer health insurance to cover contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients, even if it is a clear violation of their conscience rights.

During the public comment period, HHS received over 200,000 comments on the rule with many citing that the narrow scope of the religious exemption issued on August 1, 2011, would only apply to places of worship. Countless other religious-affiliated organizations, such as schools, hospitals and even religious charities, are not protected under this exemption. Furthermore, although the new decision grants religious-affiliated organizations a one-year extension in order to comply with the mandate, this extension only delays the inevitable violation of conscience. In reference to the extension, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated, "In effect, the President is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences."  

HHS’s latest decision to mandate contraceptive, sterilization, and abortifacients coverage is an unprecedented overreach by the federal government that infringes upon rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. This decision also will violate the conscience rights of those who, for moral or religious reasons, oppose abortion. The reason is, as you know, the rule mandates coverage for FDA approved drugs and devices that can function as abortifacients, including certain IUDs and drugs such as Plan B and Ella.

As pro-life Members of Congress, we urge you to reconsider the final rule as it applies to any employer or individual that opposes coverage of such services based on moral or religious reasons.  In your response to this letter, we request that you provide us specific details on the process followed in the reading and evaluating of the public comments submitted. Additionally, in light of the concerns mentioned, we respectfully request that you suspend the final rule until you can ensure that both employers and individuals are afforded their constitutionally protected conscience rights.

Sincerely,