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Freedom of conscience and religious liberty

What if the federal government ordered you to act against your conscience – to take part in something you believed to be objectively wrong – or else be punished with huge fines?

This is no idle question.  It describes exactly what is happening in America today:  The Obama administration is ordering businesses and other organizations with 50 or more employees to have their insurance plans cover drugs and devices which can cause early abortions.  To many business owners, that means either cooperating in grave evil, dropping insurance they have always provided their workers, or being forced out of business.

{mosads}Just ask David and Barbara Green, owners of the giant chain of Hobby Lobby stores.  Just ask the Hahn family, Mennonites who own Conestoga Wood Specialties.  These courageous Americans are defending not only their own rights but also those of all Americans who wish to live their lives and run their businesses in accord with their free consciences and their deepest beliefs.

That is why the public policy groups and the women’s coalition that we represent signed an amici curiae (“friends of the court”) that was filed with the Supreme Court of the United States in two lawsuits against Obama Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. While we do not take a position on contraception, we do assert fiercely our freedom of conscience and religious liberty.

The cases center on ObamaCare’s Health and Human Services mandate, which uses the threat of ruinous fines to coerce private individuals and organizations into becoming complicit in abortions – to, as our brief says, “violate religious beliefs by covering in health insurance plans devices and drugs that can prevent an embryo from implanting in the womb.”  In doing so, the Mandate directly attacks the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom.  It also contradicts several federal laws that protect the people’s conscience rights concerning abortion, such as the Church Amendment of 1973.

The mandate’s departure from respect for conscience rights is deepening our nation’s social and political divisions.  It plainly creates a national conflict over religious freedom by trampling upon the conscience rights of the many Americans who oppose abortion.  Those Americans, it should not even be necessary to point out, include millions of women such as ourselves who cherish and champion the right to life and who prize and defend Americans’ rights of conscience and religious liberty.

We decry the Obama administration’s arrogant and insulting pretenses that all women think alike, that they all support the mandate’s policy of “free” abortion drugs, and that the mandate benefits all women.  Women who own or operate businesses constitute almost a third of the plaintiffs who are suing in the federal courts to stop the Mandate.  They are not the only ones who oppose the mandate; in a WPA Opinion Research Poll early last December, 54 percent of American women ages 18-54 opposed it.

The rhetoric surrounding the mandate – that it is “pro-woman” and is all about “health” – is deeply offensive to us and to all women who do not think in lockstep with the Obama administration and the Planned Parenthood-abortion lobby.  The implication that all women want free, embryo-destructive drugs and devices and value them above the religious liberty affirmed and protected by the Bill of Rights is a degrading stereotype.  It demeans all women, and in fact it flies in the face of reality.

Also insulting to everyone’s intelligence is the mandate’s implication that abortion-inducing drugs are preventive “medicine.”  Pregnancy and women’s fertility are natural conditions, not diseases.  And the embryonic humans whose lives the abortifacients snuff out are not some sort of illness but our precious children in the first days of their lives.

All of the manifestly serious reasons above are why we signed onto the amici curiae brief last week.  We are the Susan B. Anthony List, which works to elect pro-life candidates.  We are the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the education and policy arm of the Susan B. Anthony List.  We are the Concerned Women for America, our nation’s largest public policy women’s organization.  And we are the Coalition of State Legislative and Executive Branch Officials, a group of female state-level officials who promote public policies that advance women’s true health and safety and who defend religious freedom.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga cases on this coming Tuesday, March 25.  May the Justices defend the free exercise of religion.  And may the rest of us never waver in our love for religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

Dannenfelser is president of the Susan B. Anthony List. Nance is president and CEO of Concerned Women for America. Oberlander is a state legislator representing Pennsylvania’s (home of Conestoga Wood Specialties) 63rd legislative district.  She successfully led legislation to opt-out the state of Pennsylvania from covering abortion in the health care exchanges.

Tags Kathleen Sebelius

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