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  • No Way Out: How Conscience Gets Trapped in Obamacare’s Little Box of Horrors

    If it weren’t for Obamacare, we wouldn’t have this problem. By “this problem,” we mean of course the Obamacare regulation that forces health insurance plans to provide coverage, without co-pay, for contraception, sterilization, and what many people believe are abortion-inducing drugs.

    When it was announced last August, the forced coverage mandate contained only a very narrow religious exemption. That meant it would apply to many religious employers who object on religious or moral grounds to providing, paying for, or otherwise participating in abortion, sterilization, and contraception. This result, as Heritage has explained on several occasions, was a blatant violation of religious freedom.

    Under pressure for trampling religious freedom, last Friday the Obama Administration announced certain potential modifications to the rule. Sort of. What the Administration actually did was post the final rule without any changes. That’s right—they posted the final rule without any modifications from the August 2011 version that caused the furor in the first place. And then they promised that sometime during the next year, they would pursue a new rule to address concerns about religious freedom.

    Decide for yourself how much weight to put on the Administration’s promise to protect religious freedom in some future rulemaking process. Even if the Administration does exactly what it says it will do, however, the announced “compromises” are little more than a fig leaf, meaning the forced coverage mandate—on this and future issues—persists as a serious threat to religious freedom.

    In short, this issue isn’t going away, as badly as the Administration might want it to. That means more spin from the Administration and its allies in the days and weeks ahead.

    Concerned citizens, leaders of religious institutions, and public officials should respond by keeping their focus on three basic points:

    1. Religious freedom goes hand in hand with limited government and with greater freedom in general.
    2. The basic structure of Obamacare makes these kinds of conflicts both inevitable and recurring.
    3. Properly designed health reforms would never have produced this situation in the first place.

    Indeed, as the American public is beginning to realize, Obamacare builds a giant government box around freedom:

    • The individual mandate and employer mandate form the sides. These mandates force both individuals and employers into the market for health insurance. Whether you are an individual or an employer, you don’t have the option not to buy if you are subject to one of these mandates and you’re not otherwise exempt, without facing a financial penalty.
    • The bottom of the Obamacare box is formed by the various benefit mandates in the legislation. Some of these mandates are imposed only on insurers. Others, such as the forced coverage mandate at issue here, apply to insurance companies and employer health plans, including self-insured plans. Whereas the individual and employer mandates force individuals and businesses into the market, the benefit mandates tell individuals and employers what they must buy and insurance companies what they must sell. This standardization of insurance products will inevitably create problems of conscience for many Americans.
    • The top of the box—the lid that keeps everyone inside—is made up of the various penalties that Obamacare imposes on individuals, employers, and insurance companies that fail to comply. As Heritage has explained here, here, and here, these penalties are significant not only in legal terms, but also have the potential to be quite burdensome in practical terms.

    This is the box that Obamacare builds around freedom, and any person or group subject to Obamacare’s mandates and not qualified for some special exemption or discretionary waiver is in danger of getting trapped. And when freedom in general gets trapped, religious freedom is likely to get trapped, too. This is precisely what happened in this case, when the Department of Health and Human Services defined mandated “preventive care” services to include sterilization, contraception, and abortion-inducing drugs. Once Obamacare forces individuals and businesses into the market and dictates what goods and services must be bought and sold, it is only a matter of time before federal regulations run smack into religious and moral conscience.

    It is essential for religious leaders who are justifiably outraged at the forced coverage mandate and its infringement on religious freedom to understand that the sterilization-contraception-abortifacient mandate and the resulting conflict is not an aberration. Rather, this particular burden on religious freedom is an entirely predictable result of legislation that was deliberately designed to create not a uniform national health system, but one that conforms, even in detailed particulars, to the liberal outlook of its political authors. It is implemented through a massive, sweepingly broad, and intensely detailed application of federal power to every public and private health system stakeholder and, indeed, to all Americans.

    Thus, however this particular issue is eventually resolved, the root problem will still very much exist. Given the enormous amount of discretion the law grants to unelected bureaucrats in numerous places, there are likely many other ways that Obamacare can conflict with religious freedom. We have yet to see, for example, how the essential benefits package rules will affect issues related to reproduction, end of life, and parental authority over medical care and testing for minor children.

    Indeed, when it comes to religious freedom, the most fundamental problem with Obamacare is that it empowers an overweening federal government—often through a vast regulatory system administered by unelected bureaucrats—to micro-manage every corner of the health care system and everyone who participates in it. Furthermore, from the perspective of the legislation’s authors, this result is, in the parlance of software developers, not a bug but a feature.

    When a building is so badly designed and built that no amount of renovation can fix it, the only solution is to call in the bulldozers and start over—preferably with different architects and engineers. The same is true of Obamacare.

    Posted in Featured, Obamacare [slideshow_deploy]

    15 Responses to No Way Out: How Conscience Gets Trapped in Obamacare’s Little Box of Horrors

    1. Rege says:

      Obamacare is this administration's signal achievement because it systematizes the state's power to determine who will be born, who will live, and who will die. Everything else is small potatoes. That's why Obama will never in any meaningful way back down on the HHS mandate. The mediating institutions — like churches — must be brought to heel. The outlines of Obama's second term are foreshadowed for all who have eyes to see and ears to listen.

    2. Mike, Wichita Falls says:

      I sometimes wonder if these onerous, unconstitutional laws, especially Obamacare, are written by legislators and twisted by bureaucrats in such a way so as to carve out exceptions for politically-favored groups. We already see that with the thousands of waivers granted by her highness, Secretary Sibelius. In the case of religious violations, what would stop her or her successors from granting waivers to certain religious groups who help propagate the statist agenda from the pulpit and elsewhere?

      Repeal Obamacare or whatever part the Supreme Court doesn't strike down in June!

    3. steve h says:

      I'm amazed anyone could be against contraception. We need to get away from these crazed religious zealots and realize that unmarried people are having sex and some married people are having sex without wanting children – and just like any good preventive medicine, contraception will keep costs down in the long run. I hate how we let these religious nuts run federal policy – we need to get them out of policy and do what is right for our people and country. They want people to have unwanted babies, and then want to refuse to pay for any of the programs that care for those unwanted babies. And these supposed religious and christian people are somehow against giving healthcare to tens of millions of people out there who don't have any health insurance. I thought you wanted to help heal the sick and feed the poor?? These 'christians' just care abotu their own wallets. Incredible hypocrits!

      • Veritas says:

        Hello Steve h, please note that there are people who favor birth control in general…but who also believe that the government should not be mandating issues best left to individuals to decide for themselves. Liberal or conservative, none of us want the government telling us what to do, wouldn't you agree? If a precedent is set allowing the government to mandate 'social' matters…then history and logic tells us that even if we agree with the politicians in power today, tomorrow's politicians and their mandates could be a different matter altogether. Your thoughts?

      • CommonSense says:

        Steve- surely you must be extremely young to write such a puerile post. Think this through, won't you?

        Is contraception freely available now at a cost anyone can afford? Yes. Cheap or free birth control is available everywhere right now.

        If the Catholic Church does not provide free birth control to its employees, will anyone have to do without cheap or free birth control? No, it is still readily available everywhere in this country.

        By not giving out unneeded, free birth control to its employees, is the Catholic Church "against giving healthcare" to tens of millions of people? No, the Church just doesn't want to give free birth control, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs to its employees.

        The Catholic Church and Church affiliated groups is the largest single provider of health care services in this country. Do you believe this means the Catholic Church is against providing healthcare? No, the Church is opposed to providing free birth control, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs to its employees, against its long-held and clearly articulated religious beliefs.

        Who provides more pre-natal care and adoption services for women with crisis pregnacies; the Catholic Church or Planned Parenthood? Planned Parenthood provides virtually no adoption counseling and no adoption services and relatively little prenatal care. Catholic Church- you see where this is headed, right?

        The Catholic Church provides no abortions; in fact Catholics say abortion is the killing of a baby. The church runs more than a third of the hospitals and clinics in this country; healthcare that is about prevention and treatment of disease and injuries.

        Planned Parenthood? Biggest abortion provider in the country. Their "healthcare" is all about the prevention of babies being born.

        The religious bigotry that you are displaying is both ugly and ignorant. It is a pity that you cannot see that your own First Amendment rights, your future freedom to speak and act according to your conscience is inextricably tied with the ability of Catholic institutions and individuals to act in accordance with their own beliefs.

        Or are you just fixated on getting those free condoms, so that you can get laid this weekend?

        • Ken Marx says:

          CommonSense, excellent response. Steve may just be a lost cause or maybe he's an Obama zealot. Who knows. Keep your intelligent and good thoughts.

    4. O2BMe says:

      It isn't crazed religious zealots. They are only saying they don't want to pay for what they don't believe in. There are plenty places to get free contraception and abortion drugs, for instance Planned Parenthood that taxpayers alreay pay for. If all the religious operated hospitals and nursing homes closed because of this what would happen. The hospitals in this country are run by Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Catholics. Very few are run by local counties, states or federal government.

    5. mary ann d'amata says:

      I can't stop laughing at the comments by Steve H. Hey, Steve, go to your local Catholic Church, ask the Pastor to explain exactly why the Church is against contraception and your heart will be changed. Harden not your heart.

    6. Victoria DeLacy says:

      Obamacare has never been about health care but, rather, about control of the lives of the citizenry. Every employer ought to have the freedom to employ people whose belief system is in harmony with their own and that is what is being trampled here. Catholics and other Christians would not deny true health CARE to anyone. Abortion is not health care, it deprives an innocent person of their right to be fulfill their divinely appointed purpose. While that procedure is decriminalized in our society for the time being (even as was once true of the evil of slavery), that does not mean that everyone agrees with the perpetration of that crime against humanity and those to whom it is offensive should never be forced to become accomplices to it in any way. If you want to see where that sort of tyranny leads, check out the You Tube video entitled :First They Came for the Jews" – it"s a real eye-opener. We must stand by rights of conscience…NOW.

    7. FriendForLife says:

      I can't stop chuckling either when I read and hear all the fractured reasoning the extremist conservatives are forcing on the poor little old Reflubs. It really doesn't matter in the long run to them what this administration tried to do and got obstructed by the likes of Senator "No" McConnell. Anything is fair game when his number one priority is and and always been since 2008, to make this President "a one term President". With the field of nightmare candidates slicing the Grand Old Party and each other to meaninglessness, it will be a wonder if there is even a convention to attend this year.

    8. Jim says:

      WHY aren't our lawmakers adhering to our Constitution and making life hard for those politicians and officials who are disregarding it? Is there no way to enforce Constitutionality? Where is Congress? Where is the Supreme Court. Where are out patriotic legal defense and "watchdog" groups. Where is a President who SWORE to uphold the Constitution.

      The Constitution was written to limit the power of the "Federal" government while ceding it just enough power to protect citizens and property from harm.

      Current ideas about the First Amendment and "separation of church and state" are ludicrous. The idea is to protect freedom of religion from the State. Not visa versa. Read it please O' noble legislators.

    9. Steve M. says:

      Steve H., tell me why the government or anyone else should pay for another person's birth control. Individuals should be responsible for their own actions or they are no better than animals. I resent being forced to pay to take care of the clueless. The Democrat Party has turned you all into mindless zombies to get your vote. Wake up!

    10. A. Terranova says:

      This is a most egregious violation of the U.S. Constitution/First Amendment right to religious freedom. Personally, I believe ALL Americans should be advocating for Obama's impeachment on the grounds that he has violated his oath of office. In addition I believe the Supreme Court is wasting precious time in trying this case. The longer this continues, the more this administration will tyrannize us and get away with it. The problem, as I see it, is that those in government office are NOT representing the welfare of all U.S. citizenry so in this case they are all to blame. Constantly hashing and rehashing "opinions" for the sake of discussion is not only redundant, it is nonproductive. We need action and we need it now.

    11. Stephen says:

      Why on earth would the authors of this piece lie like this? They must know that none of it is true. If they don't then they're simply ignorant.

      Speaking for myself, I look forward to the day when the Affordable Care Act can remove some of the very real burden that paying for my health insurance places upon me. Do any of you people have any clue how much insurance costs these days? Mine costs about 12% of my gross income. Do any of you know how much long-term care can cost? We are the only nation among the 1st world that does not provide health care to its citizens.

      It's appalling that this modest first step by our president should be buried under an avalanche of the most disgusting lies and disinformation.

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