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Another Broken Promise

Just over five years ago, an attempt to persuade the Congress and the public to support the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Obama stood before a joint session of Congress and declared to the American people, “under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.”

A new report released today, prepared by the independent, nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO), demonstrates that despite the President’s unambiguous promise taxpayer dollars are being spent on abortion.

By way of review, the federal Hyde Amendment strictly prohibited the use of federal funds for abortion from 1976 until 2010, when the ACA was passed.

This longstanding federal policy became a major point of contention in the legislative debate as finding votes proved to be difficult, even among his friends.

Eight pro-life Democrats refused to support the ACA if federal funds were going to be used for abortion.

In order to secure those votes, President Obama proposed a rule that would require any policy covering abortion to charge an abortion surcharge and promised that other funds would not be used to pay for abortion.

In the end, this convinced those who were otherwise uneasy with the law to support it and final passage was secured.

However, this GAO report only confirms the suspicions of many that the proposal was a gimmick intended to secure votes, not an honest attempt to honor the conscience of the hundreds of millions of Americans who do not want to pay for abortions.

Some states took action to prohibit taxpayer funds from being used for abortion. But in states where that did not happen, the federal government has done nothing to ensure compliance with federal law.

The report found that five states (NJ, CT, VT, RI, HI) don’t offer a single plan that doesn’t include abortion coverage. That means that all subsidies in those states are covering abortion.

In the state of California, where 1.25 million people are receiving federal subsidies for their health care plans, 95% of all plans cover abortion.

In the state of New York, 405 of 406 plans cover abortion on demand.

Over 1,000 plans on the ACA exchanges cover abortion on demand, which would never have been allowed under the Hyde Amendment.

The accounting gimmick that was supposed to be the solution to this problem is largely being ignored. Of the 18 companies the GAO surveyed in their study, not one of them was collecting a separate abortion surcharge.

We are not aware of any evidence that the Department of Health and Human Services has made any attempt to require compliance with its own laws on this matter.

If you like your insurance you can keep it, period.

Your premiums will go down.

Federal funds will not be used for abortion.

Looks like none of it was true.

That’s why we should all be concerned that at the same time he was promising not to use federal funds for abortion he was also promising that federal conscience laws will remain.

Consider yourself warned.
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She Was for It Before She Was Against It

Yesterday, in the United States Senate, Washington Sen. Patty Murray voted with fifty-five other Senators to roll back religious freedom.

Specifically, she voted for legislation that would force businesses like Hobby Lobby to pay for contraceptives that violate their sincerely held beliefs.

While Hobby Lobby pays for sixteen different forms of birth control in their coverage, Sen. Murray and others are frustrated that businesses have the freedom to make choices they disagree with.

In the Hobby Lobby decision, the Supreme Court said that the contraception mandate violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because there are ways for the government to make the objectionable forms of birth control available without forcing people to violate their conscience.

If it’s really that important, the government could simply pay for it.

However, instead of proposing legislation to make the objectionable forms of birth control available to Hobby Lobby employees that might want them, Sen. Murray drafted legislation that would make it easier for her to force people to violate their beliefs.

Her website claims that the legislation would “restore the contraceptive coverage requirement guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act and protect coverage of other health services from employers who want to impose their beliefs on their employees by denying benefits.” (emphasis added). 

Oddly, it appears that saying “no” to someone who asks you for something is imposing your beliefs on them.

However, forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do is not.

Her legislation would is intended to be a “legislative fix” to the Hobby Lobby decision and repeal significant protections in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  Curiously, RFRA was itself a “legislative fix” to the Supreme Court’s 1990 decision in City of Boerne v. Flores.

In the time we’ve moved from “Hammer pants” to skinny jeans, Congress has moved from being alarmed when the Supreme Court takes away the people’s freedom to being alarmed when the Court limits the government’s ability to control the people.

Religious freedom wasn’t always seen as a problem on the left.

In 1993, RFRA passed the House of Representatives 425-0 and passed the Senate 97-3.  Vast right-wing, co-conspirator Bill Clinton signed it into law and later called it one of his greatest accomplishments as President.

Sen. Murray voted for it as well.

Her shift on this issue is symbolic of the left’s shift on individual liberty generally. Nothing about RFRA changed in the last twenty years.

What changed is the urgency with which the left feels the need to control people’s lives.

In 1993, the idea that employers can be forced to pay for their employees abortions would have been greeted with a universal raise of the eyebrow.

Now that Sen. Murray believes that forcing people to violate their conscience is not only permissible but desirable, she is being forced to undo the protections for individual liberty she once championed.

When it comes to religious freedom, at least she can say she was for it before she was against it.

If you want to share your thoughts with Senator Murray, you can contact her at (202) 224-2621 or click here to send her a message.