Thursday, February 16, 2012

Missouri Moves to Repeal HHS Mandate

A Missouri Senate Committee has passed and sent to the full Senate a bill which would protect the conscience rights of Missouri citizens, employers and insurance companies from the effects of the Obama administration’s sterilization, abortifacient and contraceptive mandate.

SB 749 by Senator John Lamping (R-Clayton) has been fast tracked and could be up for consideration as early as Monday. The bill’s summary reads, in part:

This act provides that no employee or any other person, employer, health plan provider or sponsor, health care provider or any other entity shall be compelled to obtain coverage for or provide coverage for abortion, contraception, or sterilization in a health plan if such items or procedures are contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of such employee, health care plan, provider or sponsor, or any other entity or person. No such employee, health care plan, provider or sponsor, or any other entity or person shall be discriminated against by any governmental entity, public official, or entity acting in a governmental capacity for failing to obtain or provide such coverage because of such religious beliefs or moral convictions of such employee, health care plan, provider or sponsor, or any other entity or person.

The bill further directs the State Attorney General to bring action in state or federal court is any of its provisions are threatened or violated. Below is the Missouri Catholic Conference analysis of the bill and the HHS Mandate situation in general (Don’t miss the action item at the bottom):

The Missouri Senate is moving swiftly to respond to the Obama Administration's recent edict that employers, including the Catholic Church, provide health coverage for contraceptives, sterilization procedures and abortion drugs. SB 749, sponsored by Senator John Lamping (R-Clayton), won committee approval Tuesday and is fast-tracked and may be debated next week by the full Senate. (Click here to see the Fox 2 News video.)

SB 749 would place in state law a clear prohibition on government forcing employers, including the Catholic Church, to pay for contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion drugs. The bill would also ensure that individuals would not be forced to purchase health plans that include these items if they object to them on moral or religious grounds.

WHY STATE ACTION MUST BE A PRIORITY

Congress has so far failed to enact revisions to the federal health care law (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) that will protect rights of conscience and religious liberty. Leaders in the U.S. Senate in particular have stymied efforts to amend the law.

It is becoming increasingly clear that change will only come when there is a groundswell of protest from citizens. And that is most effectively mobilized at the state level. State officials are closer to the people and more responsive to their concerns.

The MCC has great hope that the Missouri General Assembly will pass SB 749. If Governor Nixon then signs the bill into law, this will send a powerful message to Congress that events are leaving them behind and they need to act.

WHY OBAMA'S "ACCOMMODATION" FAILS TO PROTECT RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Last Friday President Obama announced a so-called "accommodation" on a rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that required all employers, including the Catholic Church, to pay for contraceptives, sterilization procedures and abortion drugs. This "accommodation" requires insurance companies offering health plans to religious organizations to separately provide free coverage to the employees for contraceptives, sterilization and abortion drugs. 

In fact, insurance companies are not going to offer this coverage for free. Someone is going to pay for it and that someone is the religious employer. The religious employer will pay a higher premium and thereby subsidize the use of these products that violate their religious and moral tenets. And religious employers that self-insure, that is, don't buy their health insurance on the open market, will have to pay for and provide contraceptives, sterilization and abortion drugs in the health plans they offer to their employees.

The "accommodation" also does not offer a private (non-Church) employer the option to refuse to pay for abortion drugs etc if they have moral or religious objections. Individuals (employees) will also be forced to pay through premiums for health plans that include abortion drugs etc, even if they don't use them or if they object for moral or religious reasons.

DEEPLY FLAWED PROCESS, DEEPLY FLAWED LAW

This deeply flawed "accommodation" has not been issued as a revised rule. That rule will not be issued until after the election. People are being asked to just trust that the President will take care of the problem, somehow, later. It's a sad day when our religious liberties depend upon some edict from the White House.

We got to this point because Congress, when they wrote the new health care law, failed to include provisions protecting rights of conscience and religious liberty. Instead, the law ceded broad authority to HHS to write rules and HHS proceeded to define the "preventive services" that employers must offer to include contraceptives, sterilization procedures and abortion drugs.

If we have learned anything in recent weeks, it is that we should not trust our religious liberties to federal regulators. Without clear guidance from the new federal health care law, regulators proceeded to write a rule that violates the moral and religious convictions of Americans.

IT'S ABOUT RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Opponents (and much of the media) are trying to characterize this issue as one about birth control. But people get it: this is about religious liberties. Click here to view a short video prepared by the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  1. Contact your state senator today.
  2. Forward this email alert to family, friends and others.
  3. Pray for wisdom and understanding by all our Missouri Senators.
  4. Report back to the MCC on what your senator is saying.

THE MESSAGE/TALKING POINTS

  • Please don't delay in protecting our religious freedoms; pass SB 749.
  • The President's so-called accommodation is flawed (cite reasons above).
  • Missouri should send a message to Congress today; don't delay in protecting our religious freedoms.
  • Government should not force churches or private employers to pay for abortion drugs or other things they morally object to.
  • Individuals should not be forced to pay for health plans that include abortion drugs.
  • It's about religious liberty; pass SB 749.