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Monday, July 28, 2014

White House contraceptives "accommodation" is a vaporous sleight of hand

A Washington Times news article, "White House: More changes to contraception mandate coming" quotes a White House official spinning the administration's latest feigned "accommodation" of the Obamacare contraceptives and sterilization mandate:
"In light of the Supreme Court order regarding Wheaton College, the departments intend to augment their regulations to provide an alternative way for objecting nonprofit religious organizations to provide notification, while ensuring that enrollees in plans of such organizations receive separate coverage of contraceptive services without cost sharing."
Translation: "It's politically embarrassing for the Obama administration to promote 'diversity' and 'tolerance' and then lose religious freedom lawsuits because we don't tolerate views that diverge from our abortion ideology. So we will wave our magic Bureaucratic Wand and change the paperwork that conscientious objectors must use to cooperate with the contraceptives coercion plan they find morally abhorrent. This vaporous sleight of hand will create the illusion that we care about religious freedom, when in fact we fully plan to keep forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor--and anyone else who clings to their religion--to submit to our scheme to give our political base all the abortion-related stuff they want for free."

Here's a solution that doesn't require either coercion or legerdemain: Rather than diverting health resources to end pregnancies and punish people of faith, why not focus instead on preventing and treating actual diseases, providing needy patients with hard-to-get but desperately needed lifesaving drugs and treatments?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Policy Potpourri Report

After the Supreme Court victory in the Hobby Lobby religious freedom case provided a brief and welcome respite from playing defense with this administration and its abortion-advocating allies in the Senate, we're back to opposing bad stuff. Here's a sampling of the political mischief going on in the nation's capital:
  • The Blumenthal "abortion omnibus bill," S. 1696: The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill. For more, see colleague Chuck Donovan's Charlotte Lozier Institute  paper on the bill here and Americans United for Life's resource here.
  • The Murray-Udall Anti-Religious Liberty Bill: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops oppose the Murray-Udall bill responding to the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.  Read about their concerns here. Senator Orrin Hatch’s comments against the bill are here, and Senator Roy Blunt’s comments are here.
  • The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled a mark-up Tuesday, July 22 on the measure, which is opposed many pro-family, prolife groups.
On a somewhat more positive note, although viewed against the backdrop of tragic abortions, comes news of research progress regarding Down Syndrome. Tragically, developing babies with Down Syndrome seldom see the light of day in the USA. Mark Bradford of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation has authored a Charlotte Lozier Institute paper on research regarding Down Syndrome, abortion rates and encouraging research; read it here

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Court counters conscience assaults while administration trains its guns on nuns

A Supreme Court ruling provides a harbor of protection that will help the faith community weather the remaining years of an administration apparently bent on waging an aggressive campaign against religious freedom.
The Court's ruling in a consolidated pair of religious freedom cases involving family-owned businesses, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, upheld the rights of conscientious objectors to opt out of a federal mandate that employers must provide insurance coverage of virtually all contraceptives and sterilization surgeries.
Under the sweeping authority accorded the bureaucracy by Obamacare, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has rigidly imposed the mandate on religious objectors. The Obama administration, though meek and muddled when faced with foreign tyrants and terrorists, has trained its guns aggressively on domestic conscientious objectors to abortion, especially targeting religious conservatives who often oppose administration policies.
The administration pointedly refused to provide exceptions for most religious objectors who conscientiously oppose pills that can end the life of a human embryo, choosing instead to highlight the clash of values as a wedge issue to rally its abortion-supporting political base in the 2012 election.
The HHS Obamacare mandate threatens to punish with draconian penalties (in one case, $179 million per year) anyone who dares oppose the administration's ideology. An astounding 300 plaintiffs, including elderly Catholic nuns, faith-based charities, family business owners, Mennonite woodworkers, evangelical nonprofits, Bible publishers, hospice nurses and other unlikely enemies of the state, have fled to the courts like refugees to escape the administration's jackbooted intolerance of their convictions.
The Court ruling last week focused on the HHS Obamacare mandate's violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a two-decade old, bipartisan law that prohibits unwarranted and heavy-handed government interference with religion. Yet the cases also serve to highlight more broadly how Obama's intolerant and divisive domestic policy threatens the fundamental purpose, values and assumptions of the US Constitution. Consider the preamble to the Constitution and how its goals and principles relate to the HHS Obamacare mandate:
"Form a more perfect union"  - The Constitution's framers knew from firsthand experience that maintaining a union requires accommodating a diversity of opinions and conscience convictions. Mandating submission to the state's contraception and abortion ideology could not more clearly contradict the requirements for unity.
"Establish justice" - Establishing justice means to many increasing healthcare access for all citizens, especially for the poor. Ironically, the conscience-trampling HHS Obamacare mandate penalizes and threatens access to healthcare, by barring employers from providing healthcare coverage consistent with life-honoring standards.
"Insure domestic tranquility" - Peace can prevail even amid diverse and conflicting values, by avoiding conflagration through compromise. The administration's inflexible, intolerant HHS mandate that unduly penalizes the faith community--to the point of requiring even elderly nuns to participate in contraception--needlessly and recklessly undermines domestic tranquility.
"Provide for the common defense" - The purpose of the preventive services provision of Obamacare (under which the HHS mandate falls) is to provide a defense against disease--not against pregnancy. President Obama has asserted that 99 percent of women already use contraceptives, so why not focus instead on increasing patients' access to hard-to-get, lifesaving medicines? It's like taking aim at the Boy Scouts while jihadists assault Iraq.
"Promote the general welfare" - Given the unquestioned ubiquity and relative affordability of contraceptives, it's implausible for the administration to argue that the welfare of every woman from the Hamptons to Beverly Hills hinges on government-mandated free handouts. Nor, as the dangerously dwindling populations of Europe and Russia and the forecasts for Social Security attest, does it serve the general welfare for the government to focus its policies on preventing the births of its future citizens.
"Secure the blessings of liberty" - By penalizing conscientious objectors with draconian, multi-million-dollar fines, the HHS Obamacare mandate denies the blessings of liberty to all who disagree with the administration's ideology.
While in this ruling, freedom triumphed over tyranny, many battles for constitutional principles remain. Next up: a lawsuit involving the HHS Obamacare mandate imposed on the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of elderly nuns providing hospice care.
The Supreme Court's rulings on these cases, by framing the boundaries of government power and plumbing the depth of our liberties, will ripple out toward every aspect of the Constitution and impact how we as a diverse society value conscience and tolerate dissent.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Highlights from US Supreme Court opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a ruling upholding religious liberty, holding that the Obama administration's coercive contraceptives mandate violated the free exercise of religion. A few highlights follow; key excerpted quotations from the Court's opinion can be found here.

Key points and principles held by the Court:

1.      The Obama administration violated federal law--the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)--by substantially burdening the free exercise of religion without taking the least restrictive means of accomplishing its purpose of distributing free contraceptives. The Government easily could have assumed the cost of contraceptives to employees of objecting employers.
2.      The substantial burden on faith-based family businesses included heavy fines (over half a billion dollars imposed on three companies alone) and forcing a choice between conscience or dropping healthcare for employees.
3.      The decision is narrow, applying to the contraceptive mandate and to closely held companies (not to publicly traded corporations), and should not be seen as a license for discrimination.
4.      The job of the court is not to assess the reasonableness of a religious objection, but simply to determine whether or not it is sincere.
5.      The administration's position reveals that it views religious freedom as less important than Congress considers it.
6.      The Obama administration's position would allow forcing religious objectors to participate in any medical procedure allowed by law—including third-trimester abortions or assisted suicide.
7.      The job of the Court is not to assess the wisdom of Congress but to enforce the law (RFRA) as written.