No Matter the Cost, We Should Not Obey the HHS ‘Abortion’ Mandate
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act should protect the right to practice religion. For some, it's still an uphill fight.
Imagine if, after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law, the Department of Health and Human Services decided to add a clause mandating that to receive health insurance, every adult in the United States would have to donate blood.
Blood donation is a wonderful, selfless and life-saving action, so compelling all adult Americans to do it should be no big deal. Right?
The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not donate blood or accept donated blood. That is a tenet of their religion. Some of the bureaucrats in the federal government might scratch their heads and wonder why, but they likely would not impose that mandate because in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it would be a violation of their right to practice their religion.
And in the light of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, government may not substantially burden a person’s freedom to practice his or her religion unless it is the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling government interest.
Now imagine that every hospital in the country was put on notice that to continue receiving Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, they have to serve bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches to their patients and make them available in their cafeterias. Jewish hospitals would refuse outright because pork products are not kosher and many Jews would never consider eating, or serving, a BLT.
If the government imposed such a mandate, people would wonder if bureaucrats have too much time on their hands. No court would uphold such an obviously discriminatory mandate.
That’s why the U.S. Supreme Court took the only action it could on Zubik vs. HHS and sent it back to the lower courts with the expectation that the government and the petitioners can come up with an actual “accommodation” without requiring bacon and blood donations, so to speak.
For Catholics and many Christians, the HHS mandate that all employers must provide contraceptive and abortion-causing drugs and devices to their employees is as outrageous and strange as the fictitious examples I gave. Priests for Life, the Little Sisters of the Poor and 33 other faith-based petitioners were being told to set aside our deeply held religious convictions against contraception and abortion in order to march in lock step with the administration’s goal of fostering more contraception and abortion.
The HHS mandate — which is an administrative act of HHS, not a law passed by Congress — is often called the contraception mandate. But it would be more accurate to label it the abortion mandate, because emergency contraception, IUDs and even the Pill can put a halt to the development of a new life after fertilization has already occurred. That’s an abortion — a very early one, to be sure, but just as effective at snuffing out human life as a suction abortion or other methods.
In National Geographic’s ground-breaking film In the Womb, we learn that at the moment of conception, every human being’s unique DNA is established. This new genetic structure represents “a unique human signature that never existed before and will never be repeated.” At the moment of conception, we already are who we will become.
The Catholic Church opposes both artificial contraception and abortion, which is why so many Catholic organizations have filed legal challenges to the mandate, and why the majority of the petitioners in Zubik vs. Burwell were Catholic.
At Priests for Life, we of course oppose contraception and when they are hired, our employees know full well that abortion, abortifacient drugs and devices and contraceptives are not covered under our health insurance. They do not want this coverage.
The very reason we exist, though, is to work to end abortion, even the very earliest ones. So for the government to tell us that we have to be involved in providing to our employees the drugs and devices that will put an end to the development of these unique, human individuals, we had no choice but to refuse.
We remain optimistic that we can find a way past this stalemate, but we remain firmly committed to the words Father Frank Pavone first said more than four years ago when the HHS first announced its addition to the health care law: No matter what the cost, we will not obey this mandate.