Pro-Life Democrats Call for Broad HHS Mandate Exemptions
Democrats for Life of America supported the Affordable Care Act with the understanding that conscience rights would be protected.
BY CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY
| Posted 3/29/13 at 2:05 AM
WASHINGTON — For-profit businesses should be exempt from contraception mandate requirements to provide abortifacient drugs, Democrats for Life of America argued in briefs recently filed in federal court cases.
“Our nation has a long-standing and pervasive tradition of accommodating conscientious objections to facilitating abortion,” said Kristen Day, director of Democrats for Life of America.
“DFLA was proud to support the Affordable Care Act after we were assured that conscience rights under the ACA were protected. The executive order specifically spells out that fact. The administration should hold to its commitment.”
Democrats for Life of America were joined by Bart Stupak, a Democrat and formerly a representative of Michigan, in filing the amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs in two cases.
The cases involve private businesses that are suing the Health and Human Services Department over its mandate that they provide insurance coverage for contraception and abortifacient drugs, despite conscientious objections to these practices.
The briefs were filed in the Tenth and Third Circuits of the U.S. Court of Appeals and argue that the HHS mandate violates the First Amendment as well as the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).B
Both businesses, Hercules Industries and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., have been granted preliminary injunctions against the HHS mandate by lower courts, which are being challenged at the appellate level.
Democrats for Life of America does not uniformly oppose the mandate that businesses offer coverage of non-abortifacient contraceptives, only emergency contraceptives such as Plan B and Ella, which may cause abortions.
However, the brief involving Colorado-based Hercules Industries did note that the requirement concerning non-abortifacient contraceptives “substantially burdens religious freedom and must satisfy” the Religious Freedom Restoration Act’s test of “compelling government interest.”
This brief noted that protections for conscientious objection to abortion “carry especially strong weight in American law” and that the right not to “facilitate or support abortions” is regularly recognized as extending even to those engaged in commerce and for-profit businesses.
Democrats for Life of America also argued that the protections granted to those who oppose abortion are not limited to “direct involvement” in the act, but goes “far beyond” the act itself.
“Plaintiffs’ objection to covering emergency contraception falls within the tradition of broadly protecting conscientious objections to facilitating abortions,” said the brief.
It argued that while the Obama administration claims the termination of an embryo is prior to implantation in the womb — how emergency contraceptives can work — “the relevant matter for the claim of conscience under RFRA is plaintiff’s belief that a distinct human life begins at fertilization.
"It is no salve to their conscience to be told that the government defines abortion differently.”
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