Patrick Craine


VIDEO: HHS Secretary Sebelius squirms as pro-life lawmaker grills her on birth control mandate

Patrick Craine

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 27, 2012 ( - As the battle continues against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius visibly clashed in a hearing Thursday with pro-life House lawmakers, who compelled the secretary to admit she hadn’t reviewed case law on religious liberty before issuing the rule.

Sebelius appeared before the House Education and Workforce Committee where she was grilled by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina) on the mandate, which requires religious employers to cover contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs.

Rep. Gowdy quoted Sebelius’ previous remark that the mandate “strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”

The Congressman, a former solicitor for South Carolina’s Seventh Judicial Court, said there are three legal tests used to balance competing issues, the third being “strict scrutiny” in the case of “fundamental rights” like religious liberty.

Asked which test she used, Sebelius said: “I’m not a lawyer and I don’t pretend to understand the nuances of the constitutional balancing tests. … I am not going to wade into constitutional law.”

The Congressman then asked: “Before this rule was promulgated, did you read any of the Supreme Court cases on religious liberty?”

“I did not,” she replied.

Rep. Gowdy cited a series of Supreme Court rulings in which the high court upheld religious liberty even where it involved cases of animal sacrifice and gender discrimination.

But Sec. Sebelius was unfamiliar with the cases and again referred the constitutional questions to her legal staff.

“Is there a legal memo that you relied on?” he asked regarding the mandate.

“I relied on discussions,” she said.

Thomas Peters of wrote on his blog that the exchange made two things “very evident very quickly.”

First, “[how] ignorant Sebelius actually is about the history of religious liberty in this country.” And second, “how uncaring she is about the whole concept of religious liberty to begin with.”

“A third thing becomes very apparent observing this exchange: hubris,” he added. “It’s not just that Sebelius clearly doesn’t know the first thing about religious liberty, and doesn’t care about preserving it — she also comes across as believing it is beneath her to know or care about it.”

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