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72 Congressmen urge Boehner to repeal HHS mandate as deal to avoid govt shutdown or debt limit fight

Ben Johnson
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WASHINGTON, D.C., September 26, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A group of six dozen Congressmen have asked House Speaker John Boehner to use every parliamentary procedure available to him in order to exempt the American people from the HHS mandate and protect religious liberty.

In effect, the strategy – contained in a letter drafted by Congressman Joe Pitts, R-PA, and signed by 72 Congressmen – would force Senate Democrats to repeal the HHS mandate or risk either shutting down the government or defaulting on the national debt.

Under the terms of the Affordable Care Act's HHS mandate, employers must provide all employees with insurance plans that include abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception with no co-pay, or pay a fine of $100 per employee per day.

Business owners who are evangelical, Catholic, or otherwise hold to traditional values have sought relief from ObamaCare's crushing provisions in the courts.

The Health Care Conscience Rights Act, introduced in March, would exempt all employers from that requirement, as well as strengthening the conscience rights of health care providers.

It immediately received the strong support of the nation's Roman Catholic hierarchy. Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged Congress to pass the bill within a week of its introduction.

However, the legislation stands little chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate – at least, on its own.

Rather than have a direct vote, the representatives are asking Boehner to attach the bill's provisions to either the continuing resolution that keeps government funded past next Tuesday, or to legislation allowing the government to raise the debt ceiling.

H.R. 940 's sponsors – Diane Black, R–TN; Jeff Fortenberry, R–NE; and John Fleming, R–LA – were among the letter's signatories.

The Congressmen told Boehner they “respectfully request that you ensure that adequate protections for these fundamental liberties.”

The FY14 Continuing Resolution would fund the government for the coming fiscal year, which begins October 1.

The nation will reach its debt limit by October 17, if Congress does not raise it.

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House Republicans have concentrated on the debt ceiling limit, introducing a number of provisions building the Keystone XL Pipeline, repealing crushing EPA regulations on coal, and limiting medical malpractice suits.

According to one report, a Congressman also suggested including a 20-week abortion ban in the resolution.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said this afternoon that President Obama would not allow House Republicans to “extort” his signature health care bill by placing legislative qualifications on its funding.

Obama, he said, will not “engage in an attempt by Republicans to extort from him what they could not get through the legislative process, what they could not get at the ballot box, what they could not get at the Supreme Court.”

He added that Republican attempts to defund ObamaCare would "derail the essential function of government."

If a conscience measure were to pass, it could be stripped out before being signed into law. Or the president could attempt to raise the debt ceiling without congressional authorization.

Obama had previously threatened to raise the debt ceiling unilaterally, relying upon authority Timothy Geithner claimed the president has under the 14th Amendment. Legal scholars expressed doubts – and then-Congressman Tim Scott said such an act would an impeachable offense – causing Obama to back down.

House Republicans hope additional pressure on the debt ceiling will cause Senate Democrats to come around this time, as well.

“People have to recognize there’s never any compromise until the stakes are high,” Representative Dana Rohrabacher, R-CA, said.

The letter reads in full:

Dear Speaker Boehner:

As fellow pro-life Members of Congress committed to protecting the right to life, religious freedom, and the rights of conscience, we would like to thank you for your past support and again respectfully request that you ensure that adequate protections for these fundamental liberties are included in legislation that will be signed into law before January 1, 2014. Specifically, we are asking that you incorporate H.R. 940, the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, along with a cessation of federal dollars for abortions into the continuing resolution or on legislation addressing the debt ceiling.

The provisions of H.R. 940 would amend the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to ensure that the federal government cannot require individuals,charities, or businesses to buy insurance coverage that includes items or services against which they have deeply held moral or religious objections. It would also ensure that the federal government, and any state or local government receiving federal financial assistance does not discriminate against any health care entity or worker for abiding by their conscience and refusing to provide, train, or refer for abortion services. The Health Care Conscience Rights Act would ensure a private right of action for victims facing discriminatory practices.

A growing number of court cases assert a pattern of federal discrimination against religious freedoms enshrined in and protected by theFirst Amendment. In fact, more than 200 plaintiffs have filed suit against the unconstitutional HHS mandate. First issued on August 3, 2011 the HHS Mandate requires that insurance plans include “all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”

Most recently, a federal appeals court ruled on September 17, 2013 that Michigan-based Autocam Corporation does not have legal standing to seek an exemption from providing certain drug coverage now required under Obamacare. This ruling is despite the fact that the HHS Mandate violates the deeply held religious beliefs of the Kennedy family, devout members of the Catholic Church and the owners and operators of Autocam Corporation. The Kennedys seek to run their business in full accord with their Christian beliefs including a commitment to provide generous medical benefits to employees. Under Obamacare’s HHS Mandate the Kennedys would be forced to choose between adhering to their Catholic beliefs and paying ruinous fines or violating their conscience.

The egregious anti-religious, anti-life provisions of Obamacare do not end here.

Prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act federal law was explicitly clear that federal funds do not subsidize insurance coverage that includes abortion. However, the new health reform package rolls back decades of abortion policy and instead pays for policies with elective abortion.

Anyone who enrolls in a federally-subsidized health care plan that covers elective abortions will pay a separate “abortion fee” of at least $1 per month into an abortion slush fund to pay for abortion on demand. In addition, under the secrecy clause, plans that cover abortion are only allowed to disclose the abortion surcharge “as a part of the summary of benefits and coverage explanation, at the time of enrollment.” Many families may choose a plan that covers abortion without realizing it or because thatplan is the only one that covers the critical care that their family needs.

In addition, under the ACA, the law directs the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to contract with and administer several health insurance plans to be made available across the country (referred to as multi-state plans). Until passage of the new health care law, the Director of OPM was forbidden from contracting with plans that pay for elective abortion. Under the new health care law, the opposite is true. The Director of OPM may administer plans that cover elective abortion and even ensure that elective abortion is included in all but one of the plans he or she administers.

For this reason, as the health insurance exchanges go into effect, beginning October 1, 2013, Congress must enact legislation that stops the public funding of abortion coverage in the ACA.

This attack on the pro-life conscience of America demands immediate congressional action. Nothing short of a full exemption for both non-profit and for-profit entities will satisfy the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment, and nothing but a complete prohibition on public funding for abortion coverage will keep the status quo under the Hyde amendment. In recent years, the Obama Administration has committed unprecedented attacks against the unborn and the religious freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution, all under the guise of “access to health care.” Congress cannot ignore this relentless assault on life and the First Amendment.

Joe Pitts, Diane Black, Chris Smith, Paul Broun, Jim Jordan, Trent Franks, Steve King, Tim Walberg, Louie Gohmert, Steve Scalise, Walter B. Jones, Michele Bachmann, Tim Huelskamp, Marsha Blackburn, Vicky Hartzler, Frank Wolf, John Fleming, Jeff Fortenberry, Paul Gosar, Scott Garret, Randy Hultgren, Bill Huizenga, Michael Conaway, Randy Neugebauer, Andy Harris, Raul Labrador, Thomas Massie, Mike Pompeo, Keith Rothfus, Jeff Miller, David "Phil" Roe, Charles Boustany, Stephen Fincher, Matt Salmon, Kerry Bentivolio, Phil Gingrey, Randy Forbes, John J. Duncan, Jr., Doug LaMalfa, Robert B. Aderholt, Jim Bridenstine, Bill Cassidy, Rich Nugent, Marlin Stutzman, Randy Weber, Robert E. Latta, Joe Barton, Robert Pittenger, Alan Nunnelee, Brad Wenstrup, Mike McIntyre, Bill Flores, Steven Palazzo, Steve Daines, Jason Smith, Doug Lamborn, Gus Bilirakis, John Culberson, Mike Kelly, Dan Lipinski, Gregg Harper, Rob Bishop, Kevin Cramer, Howard Coble, Renee Elmers, Scott DesJarlais, Ralph Hall, Andy Barr, Kevin Yoder, Dan Benishek, Sean Duffy, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

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