Thank you for contacting me about religious freedom. As someone who believes in protecting our religious liberties from government overreach, I appreciate hearing from you.
In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) mandate that incited a national debate about the appropriate role of government in our lives and the right of religious institutions to the free exercise of their faiths. This mandate, which I oppose, requires employer-sponsored health insurance plans to provide coverage for prescription contraceptives, including abortion-inducing pills, and female sterilization. Many faith-based institutions believe these services to be deeply immoral.
After weeks of public outrage from religious members of many different faiths, the administration responded by offering what it called an "accommodation." Under this deceptively modified rule, these very same plans will have to be provided to the same employees of the same institutions. The only difference is that the administration would have us believe that certain services would now come without any cost. However, businesses do not really provide services for free, regardless of fiats issued by the government. Clearly, the costs of contraception services will be passed along in higher insurance premiums for employers. In the end, all institutions will still be required to pay for all mandated services, including those services deemed objectionable on moral grounds.
In the 112th Congress, I joined my colleagues in fighting this mandate, co-sponsoring two important pieces of legislation. The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S. 1467), introduced by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), would have protected individuals and medical providers from new federal mandates under PPACA that could undermine rights of conscience. Similarly, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (S. 2043), introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), would have provided a religious exemption from forcing members of religious entities to violate their deeply-held religious beliefs by mandating coverage for contraception and sterilization. You may be interested to know that Senator Blunt offered S. 1467 as an amendment to the highway bill (S. 1813) on March 1, 2012. Unfortunately, the Senate rejected this bipartisan amendment, in spite of my support for it, on a 51-48 vote (60 votes were required for adoption).
On February 1, 2013, HHS published additional detail on how the so-called "accommodation" will be enacted. Unfortunately, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking only confirmed the administration’s refusal to provide a meaningful exemption for religiously affiliated entities. In spite of this setback, please know that I remain committed to upholding our constitutional right of conscience and will continue to do so in this new Congress.
Thank you again for your correspondence on this important issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.
U.S. Senator, Pennsylvania