Abortion-pill mandate a sinking ship Obama refuses to abandon

Matthew S. Bowman Senior Legal Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom
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In early 1912, the ship that “God Himself couldn’t sink” met a watery grave. And in 2012, President Obama decided to pit his titanic Obamacare against God’s people and their religious freedoms.

His ship is taking on water fast.

So far, 14 federal courts have ruled on the legality of Obamacare’s mandate that employers cover abortion pills and related items; 11 of those courts have issued injunctions to protect religious believers from the mandate. Alliance Defending Freedom represents two of those families and a Bible publishing company.

Yet despite this massive breach in the hull of Obamacare, all the president can do is rearrange some deck chairs.

On Feb. 1, the federal government released yet another unreadable bureaucratic memo to justify the abortion-pill mandate. The memo and its accompanying proposal address exactly zero of the concerns that have led Alliance Defending Freedom and others to obtain nearly a dozen court injunctions against the mandate, though it does offer some meaningless “accommodations.”

The administration continues to refuse to provide religious freedom exemptions from the mandate, save for houses of worship. Under the administration’s new proposal, Americans who don’t manage houses of worship are denied religious liberty.

The government has no business putting religious freedom on the negotiating table, or picking and choosing who is allowed to exercise faith and how. All Americans, not just those within the four walls of a church, are guaranteed freedom of conscience in their daily lives and work.

The administration’s proposal claims to “accommodate” religious non-profit groups through some accounting tricks while refusing to exempt them from the abortion-pill mandate. This is nothing more than a shell game, a fictional world where abortion pills and surgical sterilization are free and religious employers give morally objectionable insurance to their employees but pretend they aren’t involved.

The Chicago Tribune aptly described this latest proposal as nothing but “an attempt to conceal the blatant reality that religiously affiliated employers will be implicated, financially and otherwise, in the provision of something they find morally objectionable. It’s another fig leaf and, again, it’s not convincing.”

Under the proposal, the heads of religious non-profits face the same unconstitutional choice they did with previous iterations of the abortion-pill mandate: obey and violate their consciences, or resist and be punished. And religious families and individuals do not even get to pretend they aren’t promoting abortion pills.

Allowing religious believers to make believe they are not violating their beliefs is not a gesture of respect; it is an illegal and insulting attack on religious freedom.

The mandate’s defenders claim that this dispute has something to do with the right to health care. But no one has the “right” to force other people to pay for their abortion pills. Even the arcane bureaucratic language in the Federal Register can’t redefine coercion as freedom.

In truth, Obamacare’s abortion-pill mandate has nothing to do with the supposed need to access abortion pills, and everything to do with the Obama administration denying access to religious freedom. As Timothy Cardinal Dolan said on Thursday, believers are called to “live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath.” Accepting the mandate would “abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.”

The federal government is breaking the law by assuming it can deny religious freedom to all Americans except pastors, priests and nuns. The only acceptable solution would be for the administration to obey the Constitution and scrap this mandate. No federal bureaucrat can declare that religious freedom gets trumped by Obamacare’s pro-abortion agenda.

Icebergs have much more mass and depth than is apparent on the surface. Likewise, religious freedom is the mass that holds American liberty afloat. Obamacare has crashed into it.

The abortion-pill mandate’s problems cannot be solved or negotiated away by the president having his bureaucrats rearrange a few more deck chairs. President Obama must abandon this ship, or risk going down with it.

Matthew S. Bowman is a senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom.