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Weekly Column

October 7, 2011

Conscience Protections Have Been Violated

One of the many reasons I opposed the health care law – crafted behind closed doors and rushed through Congress – was my concern about the negative consequences tucked in the 2,000 pages. We were told by President Obama the law would lower premiums by $2,500 for an average family. But premiums continue to increase. We were also promised the law wouldn't endanger long-held life and conscience protections. This promise has also been broken, and I'm leading an effort to convince this Administration it must not force insurance providers to choose between their beliefs and federal policies.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently rushed to publish a rule to implement part of the health care law. The proposed rule mandates that all new health insurance plans provide free preventive services, including contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs like the "morning after" pill. The agency included an exemption so narrow that the vast majority of private hospitals, universities, businesses, social services, and charities would still be required by law to comply with this mandate. Many of these are organizations with faith-based missions and deeply-held convictions. If this rule is implemented, they'd be faced with two options: act against their convictions or drop health care coverage altogether.

This is deeply troubling for several reasons. First and foremost, our country was founded upon principles of personal liberty. The federal government shouldn't require everyone to do something many consider immoral. Yet that's exactly what this HHS rule would do. It would violate our freedom of conscience and is an unjust mandate upon many American businesses, hospitals and organizations.

The rule also violates the President's pledge not to increase health care premiums. In fact, HHS disregarded any consideration of how this new mandate would drive up health care costs for American families. Though the contraceptive services may be free for those receiving them, it's everyone else who will be forced to foot the bill. Just because health care plans are required to cover a free service, that doesn't mean the service itself doesn't cost anything. Doctors must be paid for their work; companies expect reimbursement for their products. Those costs will come from everyone else in the form of increased premiums, which was confirmed by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office during the health care debate.

Last week, I co-authored a letter along with Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. It asks HHS to redraft the "Required Health Plan Coverage Guidelines for Women's Preventive Services" to make them consistent with our country's longstanding principles barring taxpayer funding of abortion and protecting personal conscience. The rule should be rewritten so that no organization finding the rule morally objectionable is mandated to follow it. Twenty-eight senators signed our letter.

The bottom line is that those who had pro-life concerns regarding the health care bill were misled. The bill does not prevent federal funding of abortion, and if this rule is implemented, will actually mandate contraceptives and violate conscience protections. Our government must not infringe upon the consciences of those who respect life and wish to uphold this principle.

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