“The threats to the freedom of conscience are real and growing, and all too often the attacks are coming from our government which is supposed to defend our civil liberties,” said AUL’s Dr. Charmaine Yoest.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (04-19-13) — Americans United for Life (AUL) filed a comment with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to express concern about the growing trend of purported nondiscrimination policies being used to unjustifiably burden freedom of conscience.  Of particular concern to AUL is the requirement by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that nearly all private health insurance plans provide full coverage for life-ending drugs and devices masquerading as “contraception.” 

“AUL commends the Commission’s interest in investigating this issue and urges the Commission to take a strong position in support of the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of conscience,” said Dr. Yoest.

AUL filed our comment in response to the briefing we attended, conducted by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on March 22, 2013, that examined recent legal developments concerning the intersection of nondiscrimination principles and civil liberties.

In our comment, AUL argues that the so-called “HHS mandate” violates the freedom of conscience of many Americans. AUL explains how the mandate eviscerates state conscience laws, violates the principles of longstanding federal conscience protections, and runs counter to U.S. Supreme Court rulings regarding abortion and contraception.

The U.S. Supreme Court has stated that the government may rationally distinguish between abortion and other medical procedures because “no other procedure involves the purposeful termination of a potential life.”  However, the HHS mandate denies private health insurance plans and healthcare payers the same right to distinguish between life-ending drugs and devices (including the abortion-inducing drug ella) and other medical procedures.

AUL paralegal Mary Novick and AUL intern Veronika Johannsen, who attended the briefing, also filed comments (click here and here) with the Commission.

“Commissioner Kirsanow asked the question: In light of the HHS Mandate, what can’t the state compel non-state actors to do?” Novick’s comment observes. “This question makes the important point that when state actors are the perpetrators of discrimination, as is the case with the HHS Mandate, there is no escape for those being discriminated against.”

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.