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Legislative Update for March 2, 2012

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Women are now speaking out, and this week showed that no one can limit our voices when fundamental religious liberty is at stake. President Reagan said it best, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” Christianity is under attack by our current administration’s overreach on Americans’ First Amendment rights.

Contraceptive Mandate in a Nutshell: Earlier this year, the Obama Administration issued an interim regulation requiring health care plans to include “free” abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization in their insurance plans, except for those who meet the insignificant “religious exemption.” In order to quell the rising tide of opposition, President Obama held a press conference, where he touted his so-called “compromise.” However, Obama’s “compromise” was exactly what we expected. It was completely illusory, a smoke-and-mirrors ploy to draw attention away from the fact that he did absolutely nothing. This is evidenced by the final contraceptive rule, which was published after his announcement, but did not change the interim regulation.

The House held three hearings this week on the contraceptive mandate. The first took place in the House Judiciary Committee. The title of that hearing was “Executive Overreach: The HHS (Department of Health and Human Services) Mandate Versus Religious Liberty.” One of the witnesses, Reverend William Lori, stated that with the administration framing the HHS mandate around “reproductive rights,” it fails to take into consideration the issue of many liberal values, that of choice, separation of church and state, minority rights, and service to everyone in need.

The other two House hearings focused on testimony by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the FY2013 HHS Budget. One took place in the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, and the other in The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. Those hearings focused on the amount of money being used to implement ObamaCare and the controversial provisions in this heinous bill.

In light of the liberal argument this contraceptive mandate is all about women’s health, Concerned Women for America (CWA) has been at the forefront fighting this battle. On March 1, CWA hosted an all-women press conference on Capitol Hill to bring representatives and outside groups together to show that women are united against this mandate. Reps. Diane Black (R-Tennessee) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) joined Penny Nance (CWA), Janelle Wray Basham (Liberty University), Kenda Bartlett (ERLC-Southern Baptist), Maureen Van Den Berg (American Association of Christian Schools), Charmaine Yoest (Americans United for Life), Sabrina Schaeffer (Independent Women’s Forum), Amanda Haas (Young Women for America of Liberty University), Day Gardner (National Black Pro-Life Union), and Jeanne Monahan (Family Research Council) to show how this mandate was a government overreach and how it impinged on our religious freedom and moral convictions.

In the Senate, Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R-Missouri) “Respect for Rights of Conscience Amendment” (S.AMDT. 1520) failed by a vote of 51-48. This amendment would have ensured that religious beliefs are safeguarded. The vote was primarily on party lines, with Democrats Robert Casey (D-Pennsylvania), Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) stepping up to protect American’s First Amendment rights, while Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) was the only Republican to vote with Democrats against the amendment.

Penny Nance, CWA’s CEO and President, said, “It’s distressing that some in the Senate were allowed to shift the debate away from what should be the true debate. This is not a question of reproductive rights; this is a question of fundamental rights of liberty.

“Our fight is not over; on the contrary, it is only just being, and CWA is ready and able to continue this battle for our families and our country.”

Independent Payment Advisory Board – Health Care Rationing: A markup was held in the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee on the repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) or H.R 452. IPAB removes government accountability to the public, ignores the essential problems associated with Medicare, and places potential life-and-death decisions in the hands of government committee, instead of doctors and patients where it belongs. Next week, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing to examine the impact IPAB will have on Medicare and the danger this poses to seniors.