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AUL Files Extensive Comment with HHS in Defense of Life and Freedom of Conscience

Today, Americans United for Life filed an extensive comment with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding the agency’s abuse of the “preventive services” provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to create a life-ending drugs coverage mandate and the failure of the Obama Administration’s supposed “accommodation” to protect freedom of conscience.

When the “preventive services” provision was first proposed in December 2009, AUL immediately warned that it would be exploited by the abortion industry to mandate abortion coverage in private health insurance plans and urged Congress to add statutory language to address the problem. However, Congress utterly failed to close the gaping loophole. The Executive Order offered by President Obama, which secured the final votes necessary for the ACA’s passage , did not even pretend to address the  problem.

As predicted, HHS hijacked the “preventive services” provision for the benefit of the abortion industry. Demonstrably influenced by Planned Parenthood, HHS defined “preventive services” to include life-ending drugs and devices, including the abortion-inducing drug ella.  As a result, nearly all private health insurance plans are required to fully-cover these drugs and devices, beginning as early as August 2012.

AUL has pointed out time and again that the anti-life mandate and the Obama Administration’s failure to protect conscience is not only bad policy, but it is unlawful and unconstitutional.  Polls also consistently show that more Americans oppose the mandate than support it and that the majority of Americans approve of conscience exemptions.

In March, in a transparent attempt to make its politically unpopular mandate more palatable in an election year, the Obama Administration issued an “Advance Notice for Proposed Rulemaking” (ANPRM) suggesting a future “accommodation.”

In AUL’s comment filed earlier today, our legal experts expose the Obama Administration’s failure to adequately protect the freedom of conscience, a core American principle:

  • HHS makes clear that its definition of “accommodation” requires those with religious, moral, and ethical objections to comply with its coercive mandate.
  • HHS fails to consider several categories of persons and institutions whose conscience rights are violated by the mandate as “interested stakeholders,” and does not even attempt to “accommodate” them.
  • HHS suggests impractical, unwise, and possibly impermissible options to accomplish an economic impossibility (providing the mandated drugs and devices at no cost to either the employer providing the insurance plan or the employee participating in the insurance plan).
  • HHS also clarifies, rather than corrects, the fact that the mandate will disrupt duly enacted state laws protecting the conscience of healthcare payers and violate the principles of long-standing federal laws protecting conscience rights.

AUL’s comment also highlights the Obama Administration’s failure to correct the inappropriate over-reach of the HHS mandate:

  • The mandate’s inclusion of life-ending drugs and devices is contrary to the stated intent of the preventive services provision of the Affordable Care Act and was based on an ideologically driven recommendation from the Institute of Medicine.
  • The ANPRM exposes HHS’ improper bypass of the Administrative Procedures Act’s (APA) notice-and-comment period requirements when it issued the guidelines and regulation.

To date, the Obama Administration has refused to offer sufficient solutions to a serious problem.  However, the suggestion of a “temporary safe harbor” illustrates that HHS is capable of both broadening the category of those for whom it permits an exemption and that HHS is not bound by its self-created timeline in imposing a coercive, anti-life coverage mandate beginning this August.

AUL urges HHS to act swiftly to comprehensively protect freedom of conscience and to rescind the mandate’s required coverage for drugs and devices with known life-ending mechanisms of action, including the abortion-inducing drug ella.

Click here to read AUL’s comment.

For more information on this subject, visit the website of AUL Action, our legislative action arm.