“All Americans with religious, moral, or ethical objections should be exempted from the coercive HHS mandate.  The freedom of conscience guaranteed in the First Amendment is not confined to houses of worship,” said AUL President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (04-08-13) – Americans United for Life has filed its third, extensive comment defending freedom of conscience and urging the Obama Department of Health and Human Services to rescind its coercive, anti-life mandate. The mandate requires nearly all private health insurance plans to provide full coverage for life-ending drugs and devices masquerading as “contraception.” Although over 150 plaintiffs have filed 52 lawsuits challenging the mandate, HHS has failed to adequately address the serious issues at hand.

“Our cherished, constitutional guarantees of freedom of conscience cannot be ‘compromised’ to advance the policy goals of the Obama Administration and its Big Abortion allies,” said Dr. Yoest. “The threat of force, fines and destruction of people’s livelihoods should not be used against those who do not share this Administration’s view of abortion.”

While the mandate has technically been in effect since August 1, 2012, HHS created a one-year “safe harbor” for certain religiously affiliated non-profits.  On February 6, HHS published a new sham “accommodation” to take effect when the safe harbor expires.

Under the recent regulations proposed by HHS, the “accommodated” employer is, in fact, forced to facilitate the objectionable coverage by automatically enrolling plan participants and beneficiaries (without an application or enrollment process) in what HHS claims is “separate” contraceptive coverage—which includes life-ending drugs—provided by the same insurer, allegedly at no cost to the enrollees.

In its comment, AUL argues that it is a fiction to claim that the two plans are separate and distinct and that the “accommodated” employer plays “no role” in the facilitation of and payment for the coverage it objects to. Even for self-insured plans, HHS makes clear that there is no way to avoid participating in the coercive, morally offensive mandate.  Also disturbing, HHS flatly refuses to allow many employers with conscientious objections to participate in its sham “accommodation.”

The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) (published on March 21, 2012) sought input on whether the “accommodation” should be extended to for-profit employers. Since that time, in 15 of the 20 challenges to the HHS mandate brought by for-profit employers, federal courts have issued injunctions or restraining orders against enforcement of the mandate.

“Despite that fact that the courts so far have agreed that for-profit companies also have First Amendment Rights of Conscience, still the Obama Administration continues to insist that their protections can be stripped away,” said Dr. Yoest.

Significantly, HHS continues to disingenuously refer to all for-profit employers as “secular.”  In fact, there are many for-profit employers that are religious, religiously affiliated, and religiously motivated.  An obvious example is Tyndale, a Bible publisher, that is one of the over 150 plaintiffs challenging the mandate.

Another example is Hobby Lobby, a nation-wide arts and crafts retailer, founded and run by the Green family who has modeled Hobby Lobby’s business principles after their religious principles. The company’s statement of purpose announces its commitment to “[h]onoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”

AUL has been at the forefront of the fight against the coercive HHS mandate, filing eleven amicus briefs in defense of freedom of conscience and against anti-life or coercive provision of the Affordable Care Act.  In February 2012, AUL filed an amicus brief in the legal challenge brought by Hobby Lobby. So far, AUL has filed amicus briefs in cases challenging the HHS mandate.