OPINION: HHS mandate abuses federal power

By CORTNEY O’BRIEN

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“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof…” This may be the first line of the Bill of Rights, but unfortunately our president does not seem to be familiar with it. In the Obama Administration’s latest attack on our freedoms, all employers must now offer their workers insurance plans that provide and pay for abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization under the Department of Health and Human Services mandate. These provisions clearly violate religious freedom and the moral principle of institutions such as Catholic churches who vehemently oppose abortion.
Last month, the HHS ruled that all employers must provide contraception to female workers. Responding to overwhelming criticism from the Catholic Church, Obama modified the mandate to ensure that Catholic-affiliated organizations would not have to pay for the contraception offered under their employees’ health care plans. Insurance companies, not the religious institutions themselves, will now pay for these services. But, this change did little to abate disapproval of the mandate, for religious employers will still be providing them indirectly through their insurance plans, clearly infringing upon their religious beliefs. Over 400 Catholic priests have petitioned Congress to protect conscience rights in health care.
Perhaps Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, best explained what this mandate means for the freedom of religion, arguing against the fact that even though Obama modified the mandate, the Catholic church will still be forced to provide insurance plans that offer services with which they do not agree.
“Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights.”
Unfortunately for Dolan and the rest of America, the HHS mandate is an example which all but proves Obama and his cabinet is acting beyond the limits the Constitution grants to the government in order to push a pro-abortion agenda. In 2009, for instance, Obama overturned the Mexico City Policy, which banned any funding to international family planning groups through the U.S. Agency for International Development from promoting abortion in other countries. In 2010, he submitted a budget calling for more money to go to Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country, although the organization is prohibited from using federal funds to perform abortion services. In 2011 and into this year, Obama has called for more funding toward embryonic stem cell research. These stem cells can only be obtained by killing developing human embryos.
In the administration’s most recent push for abortion,  the HHS mandate and its government-controlled medicine is a glimpse of how the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, could severely threaten our rights. If the president continues to push universal healthcare, Americans will be forced to purchase health insurance they may not need and failure to do so will result in fines or even jail. So much for The Land of Liberty.
In Obama’s defense of the mandate, he argues it is an important policy to guarantee womens’ rights to healthcare. But, he failed to mention that women who do not currently have health insurance can purchase generic contraceptive coverage for as little as $20 a month if they so choose.
At last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference, the largest GOP gathering of the year, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee attacked the mandate by calling on all Americans to unite against it.
“I remember very vividly when John F. Kennedy said that we are all Berliners, but in many ways, thanks to President Obama, we are all Catholics now, we are all standing together.”
Although Huckabee is Christian, he admitted that in this battle against the HHS, all Americans are affected and should stand by the Catholic Church as its religious freedom is taken away.
Considering our longstanding religious rights, we should be an example to those less than fortunate countries that do not have the opportunity to freely exercise their faith. Instead, President Obama is greatly expanding the power of government to infringe upon one of our most basic freedoms.
If the mandate stands, it will be enforced on Aug. 1, 2012. But, thankfully, more critics are sticking up for Americans’ rights and challenging Obama’s abuse of federal power.