Category archives: Conscience protection

Conscience, Convenience or Misguided Conviction?

by Sherry Crater

November 1, 2013

Commuting and working in Washington, D.C. affords many opportunities to engage in lively conversations with people who hold diverse opinions on controversial issues. With religious liberty currently being a hot topic, a recent discussion on First Amendment rights and religious expression turned into an instructive session for a group of adult men and women.

The conversation began with a recounting of the case of a New Mexico photographer who was fined $7000 for declining to photograph a same-sex “commitment” ceremony due to her deeply held religious beliefs. The discussion then turned to the provision in the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) which mandates that businesses and organizations provide contraceptives, abortion inducing drugs and sterilization procedures in their insurance plans.

Against this backdrop, the question was posed, “If you are the only pharmacist in a community and you don’t believe in the use of contraceptives, do you have an obligation to distribute contraceptives to the community regardless of your personal beliefs?” The consensus of the group, with a couple of exceptions including me, was yes; the pharmacist should comply and distribute the contraceptives for the “common good” of the community. One gentleman asked why the individuals seeking contraceptives could not simply travel to the next town to purchase them. A young woman responded, “It isn’t fair that I should be inconvenienced in getting my contraceptives.“

Her response raises a couple of important thoughts. First, why should the pharmacist have to violate his or her conscience for the convenience of others who can easily obtain abortion- inducing drugs or contraceptives elsewhere? The purchaser probably would not have to go far to obtain them, as access to contraceptives is certainly not a problem. Birth control and emergency contraceptives are available at grocery stores, every major retailer like Wal-Mart and Target, or online. Why does the purchaser’s convenience trump the pharmacist’s conscience?

Second, the assumption was made that the pharmacist would just be willing to acquiesce to the law, discard his or her moral convictions and distribute the objectionable pharmaceuticals. This assumption underestimates the strength and sacred nature of religious or moral convictions. A person with deeply held religious beliefs may very well choose to find another profession or move to another community rather than violate their conscience about such high priority personal matters. In such a case, the attempt to force the pharmacist to dispense the contraceptives against his or her will ends with the pharmacist taking their business to another community, thus leaving the original community potentially without a pharmacist at all.

Many well-intentioned but misguided people could benefit by better understanding the ramifications of limiting the freedom of people to live out their religious beliefs. Perhaps what seems best for one individual’s notion of the “common good” might have unfortunate consequences for many other members of the community. Americans have recognized since our founding the fundamental right of all citizens to free expression of religion and exercise of conscience as inherent, unalienable rights granted to us by God and secured and protected by the Constitution.

The Casualties of the Healthcare Law

by Jeanne Monahan

August 30, 2012

As we close out this historic month of August, 2012, I cant help but comment on a very sad day that marked the start of a new moment in American history. The infamous contraceptive mandate began its implementation stage on August 1, 2012, and on this day the landscape of the separation of Church and State as we have known it in the United States was drastically altered. On that day groups were forced to violate religious dictates and consciences on such matters as insurance coverage of contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.

Those who have been following this debate will well remember that one year ago, the department of Health and Human Services used its regulatory power to mandate that the full range of Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptives be included in all health insurance plans, minus a very small group of religious employers, namely places of worship.

A massive public outcry ensued this decision, resulting in the Obama Administration announcing a purported accommodation last February (one that is yet to be worked through in any level of detail) as well as a one year safe haven for certain religious employers while they worked through the logistics of violating their consciences.

Organizations that do not fulfill the safe haven criteria include businesses, and groups that must not have provided any kind of contraception coverage before the February 10th regulation was issued. A number of lawsuits have been filed in response, including many asking for immediate injunctions against the mandate set to begin on Wednesday.

So who are the first casualties of the healthcare law? One such group is Weingartz Supply based out of Ann Arbor,Michigan. The organization provides supplies for lawn-mowing and snow removal. Until now the business, owned by a Catholic has not included contraception coverage, but now will be required to do so. Representing Weingartz and a Catholic business organization, Legatus, the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan filed a suit asking for an injunction from the mandate, but a hearing has not yet been set despite a May filing.

Similarly, a family-owned heating and cooling business in Colorado, Hercules, sought and received a temporary injunction the Friday before the mandate was to be implemented. But the injunction is specific to their family business, other groups are not covered.

Other casualties of the healthcare law include insurers and participants in the individual market who must to comply with the HHS Mandate as well as schools that have already removed health insurance coverage because of the HHS Mandate. To date this includes Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio as well as Ave Maria University in Florida. Note the irony, given that the goal of the healthcare law was to have more people covered, not less.

By far the vast majority of religious groups impacted by this mandate will feel the pinch once the safe harbor period (and the election) is over.

As we reflect upon this defining moment in history where HHS has in essence used regulatory power to redefine Church and State relations, I can still find comfort in the balance of power existing in our U.S. democratic system. The constitutionality of this regulation will ultimately be decided by the courts, where approximately 50 suits related to the HHS mandate currently wait to be heard.

More Evangelical Colleges Rise to Oppose Obama Anti-Conscience Mandate

by Rob Schwarzwalder

August 24, 2012

Our alma mater, Biola University, has now joined the growing number of Evangelical and Catholic colleges and universities suing the federal government over the Obama health care law’s requirement that all health care providers provide medical insurance plans that include access to abortion and abortion-causing drugs.

Biola President Barry Corey explained why our school is fighting the Obama anti-conscience mandate in these eloquent words:

It is simply a natural outgrowth of our calling to be stewards of the mission Biolas founders have trusted to us, to hold fast to biblical convictions even in the midst of shifting cultural sands. It is unjust that the federal government has mandated that institutions of faith like Biola, which has held biblically centered convictions for over a century, violate their consciences in this manner. It is an infringement on our freedom to be the university God has called us to be.”

Biola’s suit, undertaken jointly with Indiana’s Grace College and Seminary, is being filed by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). As East Coast Biolans, we are proud of and grateful for the stand of our school. To learn more about the Obama anti-conscience mandate and what FRC is doing to oppose it, click here.

We represent two different generations of Biolans (Rob, ‘79 and Julia,‘09), but Biola represents something timeless: The eternal truth of the Word of God. For standing up for that truth, we’re thankful for President Corey’s leadership and the continued strong stance of our school.

State Orthodoxy and the Conscience

by Rob Schwarzwalder

August 22, 2012

Law professor John Inazu writes in USA Today that when it comes to the Obama contraception mandate, “The legal challenges implicate an interest that all of us Catholics and evangelicals, religious and non-religious should value and safeguard: the right of private groups to dissent from the prevailing state orthodoxy.”

His wonderfully descriptive phrase - “prevailing state orthodoxy” - is saddening. In a republic where personal virtue is the foundation of our political order, and which rests, in Michael Novak’s wonderful phrase, “on two wings” - biblical revelation and natural law, law that is self-evident and accessible to everyone - the idea of there being a “state orthodoxy” is jarring. Yet such orthodoxy exists, which is why the Obama Administration is insisting that Evangelicals and Catholics cast away their consciences (we won’t, by the way).

When the federal government steps in to mandate that persons with reasonable, historic, and deeply held moral convictions must violate them in order to comply with a state dictate, Christians must echo the words of Peter in Acts 5:29: “We must obey God rather than men.”

Prof. Inazu concludes, “the right to differ protects moral choices that lack government approval.” Amen. But, as he would agree, that right is not just one that exists within the mind. For it to be a fully realized right, it must be allowed to affect the choices we make in civic and political life. In other words, adherence to a belief while complying with a legal limitation on the capacity to act on it is the moral equivalent of junk food: It brings us temporary respite from hunger, but no enduring benefit.

It is not enough that, in its great wisdom and compassion, the federal state does not interfere with the function of our minds as long as this function remains limited to the space between our ears. True conviction - what one believes is of value in time and eternity - means concrete and visible action in the public square. It’s government’s job to protect this right, not diminish or squelch it. As Prof. Inazu notes, “Evangelicals and Catholics need not shudder at the prospect of being politically marginalized. After all, Jesus did not. But political marginalization does not require political passivity. And one means of resistance is asking courts to protect the ability of private groups to dissent from state orthodoxy.”

So, we will ask, fight, and stand. But, by God’s grace, we will not give in.

Tony Perkins Responds to Pseudo-Compromise of Conscience Rights Mandate

by FRC Media Office

February 10, 2012

Video Transcript:

Hello, I’m Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council here in Washington D.C.

The White House was in damage control this week as the opposition to their latest mandate has reached historic proportions. Religious leaders have said if all else fails they would rather go to jail than comply with the Obama Administration’s mandate that religious organizations provide contraceptive, abortifacent drugs and sterilization as part of the healthcare coverage.

To pu this in the proper context, as I have spoken with Protestant and Catholic religious leaders, the opposition was not about contraception, but rather a violation of the religious freedom and conscience rights of Americans.

Hoping to quell the uprising the President announced that a compromise was being put forth that would provide the drugs and services to employees without the religious organization having to pay for them. The insurance company would provide the contraception to the employees free of charge. This service would not appear on the organization’s list of services, so they are not responsible for providing something they are morally and religiously opposed to. Right?

It’s not that easy.

How will the insurance company pay for this? The Administration says it is good business, because it saves the insurance company money in the long run because they don’t have to pay for the cost of pregnancies.

Really. If this is good for business and saves money, why didn’t the insurance companies do this years ago? Nothing has prohibited insurance companies from providing contraceptives.

Insurance companies are not charities. They will be offsetting the costs by increasing the administrative costs of organization plans, and religious employers will still have to pay for those plans.

So, goes the old saying, there is no such thing as a free lunch. So there is no such thing as a clear conscience when you violate the tenants of your faith, whether it is in writing or not.

One of the wisest men who ever lived once said: “If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ Does not He who weighs the hearts consider [it]? He who keeps your soul, does He [not] know [it]? And will he [not] render to [each] man according to his deeds?”

It was true when Solomon wrote it, and it is true today.

This latest fig leaf from the Obama Administration is not only deceptive, this mandate remains fundamentally wrong and still violates the religious freedoms and conscience rights of Americans.

Even if this compromise were legitimate, it applies only to religious organizations. The freedom of religion was granted to every American, not just those who work at religious organizations.

This is yet another example of President Obama’s flawed view of our rights as Americans. He has repeatedly said he supports the freedom of worship. Freedom of worship is what happens within the four walls of a church or possibly under the roof of your own home.

The freedom of religious, which our Constitution serves to protect, recognizes our ability to lives our lives according to our faith, just as the Bible instructs us to do.

Should Catholics Have a Conscience?

by Krystle Gabele

November 22, 2011

Recently, Hot Air reported that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi doesnt understand why the U.S. Catholic bishops are against requiring insurance companies to cover contraceptives, including known abortifacients. She belittles Catholics who object, conscientiously, to paying for or performing services that their church teaches are wrong.

Perhaps she should consider the Catholic Catechism, which says that Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. What could be more good than defending life? And what could be more evil than to disregard it, or denigrate those who seek to uphold it.

Even though the former Speaker is Catholic, she seems to have long forgotten that Catholicism is unequivocal in support of the sanctity of human life, from conception onward. This teaching is discussed throughout the Catechism, and there is even a section regarding the usage of abortifacients, and the Catholic Churchs stance against the use.

The Churchs teaching on this issue has a direct bearing on public policy. It is convenient to say, Im personally against abortion, but dont want to use my personal convictions to make laws. This is sad and silly: Our moral convictions inform our every decision, public or private; if one avers that personhood begins at conception, and believes this deeply, it should affect the way one legislates.

But as my colleagues Cathy Ruse and Rob Schwarzwalder have argued in their recent booklet, The Best Pro-Life Arguments for Secular Audiences, medical science and irreducible logic demonstrate that the embryo is a person and, if a person, deserving of legal protection.

As a Catholic, I am disheartened that Mrs. Pelosi would advocate against the sanctity of human life. God created life, and it is our role to protect the born and unborn. In fact, Mrs. Pelosi should be reminded of a passage in Jeremiah: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

As this passage indicates, God is the Author of life. If that is true, then one of governments most fundamental duties is to protect that which He has declared sacred. It is my hope that Mrs. Pelosi will come to recognize this truth.

A Snapshot from the House Health Subcommittee Hearing on Obamacares Contraceptive Mandate

by Jeanne Monahan

November 22, 2011

On Wednesday, November 2, Representative Pitts (R-PA), in his capacity as Chairman of the

Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health, convened a hearing to discuss the controversial HHS interim final rule on womens preventive services which forces all health plans to cover, with no cost-sharing, the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives, including drugs and devices that can destroy life.

Interesting moments from the hearing, Do New Health Law Mandates Threaten Conscience Rights and Access to Care? are included below, as well as a few fact checks and a link to the full transcript.

PROBLEMATIC PROCESS:

REP. PITTS: In issuing the rule, HHS acknowledged that it bypassed the normal rulemaking procedures in order to expedite the availability of preventive services to college students beginning the school year in August… I believe that on such a sensitive issue there should have been a formal comment period so that all sides could weigh in on the issue and HHS could benefit from a variety of views.

REP. BURGESS: The decision by Health and Human Services to issue an interim final rule, while that sounds like arcane Washington, what that means is that the transparency and accountability of the normal federal rulemaking process has now been circumvented.

…it didn’t really allow for the proper input and transparency of the normal federal agency process. The Affordable Care Act is a lot of pages of very densely worded instructions to federal agencies…there’s a reason that it does that because it allows the public to comment, and…before the rule is put forward it allows for the people to weigh in on it. But in an interim final rule…this thing can come out with the force of law in a relatively condensed period of time with maybe public input, but maybe it ignores public input.

COST IMPLICATIONS:

REP. BURGESS: We live under the rule of the Congressional Budget Office, and all of us on this — both sides of the dais know, we’re not allowed to score savings; we can only talk about cost…

Can you give us an idea of what kind of the range of costs — let’s just stick with oral contraceptives for right now. I know you’re interested in long-term contraception, but just for oral contraceptives right now, there’s a pretty wide variation of cost, is there not?

HATHAWAY

(Minority Witness OBYGN, Director of OB/GYN Outreach Services for Women and Infant Services Washington Hospital Center)

The brand name contraceptives probably run in the neighborhood of upwards of $50 per month. The generics are probably in the neighborhood of $30, or somewhere in that neighborhood…

REP. BURGESS: …[T]here is a cost differential of about $20 a month for a generic Ortho-Novum 1/35, Necon…and there’s another one called Seasonique that’s, according to research done by my staff, is $1,364 a year, so about $110 a month. So that’s a pretty wide discrepancy, isn’t it?

… the Institute of Medicine and the interim final rule says without regard to cost we have to provide all methods, now, across the board.

CONSCIENCE RIGHTS:

REP. WAXMAN: The question comes down to, what is the scope of the exception that church-provided insurance need not cover family planning? Well, I dont know why that should be even an exception. I disagree with the administration in providing that exception.

STEVENS (Majority Witness MD, MA (Ethics) Chief Executive Officer Christian Medical Association)

Virtually all medical professionals and student members we recently surveyed say its important to personally have the freedom to practice health care in accordance with the dictates of his or her conscience. Over nine out of 10 say they would not prescribe FDA-approved contraceptives that might cause death of a developing embryo…

The potential religious exemption in the conception — contraception mandate, exempting only a nano-sector of religious employers from the guidelines, is meaningless to conscientiously objecting health care professionals, insurers, and patients…The contraceptive mandate rule sweepingly tramples conscience rights, which have provided a foundation for the ethical and professional practice of medicine.

FACT CHECKS:

HATHAWAY: Using contraception is the most effective way to prevent unintended pregnancy.

Fact: Peer reviewed studies out of Sweden[1], the United Kingdom[2] and Spain [3] all agree that increased use of contraceptives coincides with an increase in abortions and sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Additionally, here in the United States, less contraceptive use correlates with fewer abortions. From 1995 to 2002, the rate of contraceptive use decreased from 64 percent to 62 percent [4] and abortion numbers decreased from 1,359,400 to 1,293,000.[5] Also see:

http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/contraception/greater-access-to-contraception-does-not-reduce-abortions.cfm

REPPALLONE:

[B]ased on your clinical experience, do you believe that elimination of out-of-pocket costs for birth control pills and other forms of contraception would increase their use?

HATHAWAY: Most definitely. Most definitely.

Fact:A survey of sexually active women conducted by the Guttmacher Institute shows only that 12 percent report lacking access to contraceptives due to financial or other reasons.[6]

REP. BURGESS: Can you tell us, between Title X, Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, how much money is spent on family planning by the federal government every year?

HATHAWAY: I dont know that number.

Fact: Contraceptives are widely available in the U.S. and already are heavily subsidized by the federal government; total public expenditures for contraceptive services were $1.85 billion in 2006. [7] Medicaid family planning costs during that time totaled $1.3 billion[8]. States additionally contributed $241 million for family planning in fiscal year 2006. Also in the same fiscal year, Title X, an additional funding stream for family planning, contributed another $215 million of taxpayer dollars for family planning services. [9] In more recent years, Title X costs have been as high as $317 million annually.[10]

Contraceptives are also covered by most insurance plans; nine out of ten employer-based insurance health plans cover the full range of contraceptives. [11]

READ FULL TRANSCRIPT

Click here for a more in-depth background on the topic see the FRC written testimony.

Click here to read FRC comments to HHS on the interim final rule.

Click here to read the FRC fact sheet.



[1]

Edgardh, K., et al., Adolescent Sexual Health in Sweden, Sexual Transmitted Infections 78 (2002): 352-6, http://sti.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/78/5/352

[2] Sourafel Girma, David Paton. The Impact of Emergency Birth Control on Teen Pregnancy and STIs.Journal of Health Economics, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2010.12.004

[3]

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21134508

[4] Contraceptive Use, Facts in Brief, The Alan Guttmacher Institute (March, 2005), http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_contr_use.html. These numbers represent use among all women age 15-44, and thus, because many women in this age group would not be sexually active, the rate of use among sexually active women would be higher.

[5] L.B. Finer and S.K. Henshaw, Estimates of U.S. Abortion Incidence, 2001-2003, The Alan Guttmacher Institute (August 3, 2006) http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/2006/08/03/ab_incidence.pdf

[6]R. Jones, J. Darroch and S.K. Henshaw Contraceptive Use Among U.S. Women Having Abortions, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 34 (Nov/Dec 2002): 294-303

[7]A. Sonfield, C. Alrich, and R.B. Gold, Public Funding for Family Planning, Sterilization and Abortion Services, FY 19802006, Occasional Report 38 (Jan 2008): 28-33.

[8] Guttmacher Institute, Facts on Contraceptive Use in the United States (August 2011): p. 1 (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_contraceptive_serv.html).

[9] Ibid.

[10]Title II of Division D of The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-117), 123 STAT 3239.

[11]Guttmacher Institute, Facts on Contraceptive Use in the United States (June 2010): p. 1 ( http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_contr_use.html).

A Primer on Conscience Protection

by Jared Bridges

March 9, 2009

Conscience protection is in the news again, and not just on this blog.  On our sister blog at FRC Action, FRCA’s newly-minted Senior Vice President Tom McClusky has posted a primer on what these regulations are, and whom they protect:

These conscience protections are important because powerful interests are inclined to force health care workers and others to participate, directly or indirectly, in morally controversial procedures. Physicians, nurses, pharmacists and others have been denied employment, dismissed, or penalized because of objections to abortion, contraception or the morning-after pill. The same pressure will almost certainly be applied to force conscientious objectors to participate in reproductive technology, eugenic screening, and in euthanasia and assisted suicide, particularly where such things are legal or are tolerated.

Read the rest here…

FRC Submits Comments to HHS on Conscience Protection

by Chris Gacek

October 5, 2008

      On August 26, 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) asked the public for comments about rules it proposed to protect the rights of conscience of health care providers - in particular, to permit them to refuse to assist in, provide, or refer patients for abortions.  These conscience rights were created by three historic federal statutes known more commonly as the Church, Coats, and Weldon Amendments.

     The Family Research Council and several other groups filed comments on September 25th responding to HHS.  Get a copy of them here.

     Here is a summary of our main points:

  • HHS’s proposed rules (regulations) are needed because many participants in the health care system are violating the Church, Coats, and Weldon Amendments. Many intended beneficiaries of these landmark civil rights laws - intended to protect health care providers’ right of religious and moral conscience - do not know their rights under the law. HHS regulations are needed to clarify the extent of these statutory protections.
  • HHS should adopt a fertilization-based definition of pregnancy (and thus abortion) because that is consistent with the prevailing medical dictionary definitions, religious thought, and medical science on when life begins: these are, after all, conscience protections, so they should protect the conscience’s of the various health care providers.
  • Even if HHS does not adopt a fertilization-based definition of pregnancy, it should reject the implantation-based definition in HHS’s human-subject regulations for a number of reasons.

 o   For example, non-uterine, ectopic pregnancies demonstrate that uterine implantation cannot define the onset of pregnancy.

  • As a final alternative, HHS should recognize that the reasonable, subjective religious or moral conviction of the individual or institutional health care provider should govern, given the statutory focus on protecting conscience. Religious freedom and conscience in this country plainly reflect the views of the individual or institution, not the views of third parties.
  • Recognizing a right of conscience does not discriminate against women or violate any concepts mandated in Roe v. Wade and its progeny which do not purport to require any particular health care provider to participate in abortions.
  • HHS should enforce the Church, Coats, and Weldon Amendments in the same manner as it enforces other civil rights statutes, like Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
  • HHS’s Title X regulations, which require grant recipients to counsel and refer for abortions, appear to violate the law as set forth in the Church, Coats, and Weldon Amendments.

 

 

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