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HHS Continues to Violate First Amendment Rights in its Punishing Obamacare Mandates, says Americans United for Life

WASHINGTON, D.C. (06-28-13) – “Once again, HHS officials choose a sleepy Friday to release regulations that violate the Constitutional freedoms detailed in the First Amendment,” said Americans United for Life President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest, as final regulations were released today on the HHS Mandate.

“Fighting for freedom of conscience is the liberty issue of our day,” said Dr. Yoest. “The linguistic gymnastics contained in the changes to the HHS mandate regulations do not affirm Freedom of Conscience for Americans. No American should be faced with these choices.  Under the First Amendment, all Americans with religious, moral, or ethical objections should be exempted from the mandate.”

Under these final rules, on January 1, 2014, the coercive HHS mandate will take effect in its final form, when it will be fully enforced against religious organizations in the same manner as it is against family businesses, and countless other Americans.

Last year, certain religious non-profits were granted a temporary “safe harbor,” an extension of their First Amendment freedoms before HHS would demand that they submit their consciences to its unconstitutional mandate. The rule issued by HHS today is the final definition of its “accommodation” for these groups when the safe-harbor expires January 1. Slapping the label “accommodation” on its plan does not alter the fact that HHS is unconstitutionally and inexcusably forcing these religious organizations, against their religious and conscientious beliefs, to facilitate coverage of life-ending drugs and devices such as the abortion-inducing drug ella.

Now that the rule is final, the legal challenges filed by many organizations challenging the HHS mandate, which were previously dismissed on procedural grounds, are “ripe” for their day in court.  These cases now join those brought by the owners of for-profit businesses, like Hobby Lobby and Eden Food—business run by Americans that the Obama Administration did not even pretend to “accommodate” or protect. To date, of the 28 for-profit plaintiffs that have obtained rulings touching on the merits of their claims, 21 have successfully secured injunctive relief against the HHS mandate.

The HHS mandate poses a serious threat to Americans’ fundamental freedoms. It forces countless family businesses, religious organizations, and other non-profits into a terrible set of choices:

1)    violate their deeply held beliefs by complying with the mandate;
2)    resist the mandate and face federal fines of up to $100 per employee per day; or,
3)    drop health insurance coverage altogether, harming employees, and pay a roughly $2,000 annual fine per employee for doing so.