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Archive for the ‘Health Care Reform’ Category

Justice Alito

Justice Alito

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld conscience protection for certain businesses to refuse to provide abortifacient drugs and devices through employee insurance, as mandated by an HHS rule under Obamacare.

The Hobby Lobby ruling applies narrowly to “closely held corporations,” which the IRS defines as firms where half of the value of the corporation is held by five or fewer individuals. The Obama administration had argued that ‘for-profit’ corporations couldn’t have religious beliefs, but the Court disagreed, finding that,

“Protecting the free-exercise rights of closely held corporations…  protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them.”

The Court also noted that the Evangelical owners of Hobby Lobby and the Mennonite owners of Conestoga Wood Products (both “closely held corporations”) professed “sincere Christian beliefs that life begins at conception and that it would violate their religion to facilitate access to contraceptive drugs or devices that operate after that point.”

Specifically, the Hobby Lobby lawsuit sought an exemption to providing 4 of the listed 20 forms of contraception that HHS mandates under “preventive services.”

Gov. Brownback

Gov. Brownback

KANSAS PROTECTIVE LAWS
Of note to Kansas pro-lifers is that the Hobby Lobby majority opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito.

Alito’s appointment to the Court would not have occurred had not our governor, then-U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, led the resistance to President Bush’s 2005 nomination of Harriet Miers to replace the retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. O’Connor had provided the fifth vote in the 2000 Stenberg decision striking down a Nebraska partial birth abortion law but Alito became the fifth vote to uphold the federal partial birth abortion ban in 2007.

The backdrop of the Obama administration’s aggressive abortion agenda further incentivized Kansas to pass particular pro-life laws, signed by pro-life Gov. Brownback, elected in 2010.

After the passage of Obamacare that included abortion coverage, Kansas enacted laws in 2011 to prevent abortion coverage in any future Kansas health exchange and in all private health insurance plans unless a separate abortion ‘rider’ is purchased.

In the wake of the HHS mandate and an increase in contraceptive promotion, Kansas medical professionals faced a growing ethical problem: some pills and devices marketed as preventing pregnancy also disrupt the implantation of the human embryo—called a post-fertilization abortifacient effect.

Because Kansas’ abortion statute defines legal contraception as, “the use of any drug or device that inhibits or prevents ovulation, fertilization or implantation of an embryo,” in 2012, Kansas passed conscience protection for medical professionals and facilities: “No person shall be required to perform, refer for, or participate in medical procedures or in the prescription or administration of any device or drug which result in the termination of a pregnancy or an effect of which the person reasonably believes may result in the termination of a pregnancy.”

In 2013, Kansas passed further barriers to government promotion of abortion in healthcare in the Pro-Life Protections Act, which

  • declares that human life begins at fertilization and that Kansas public policy will promote and protect the interests of unborn children and their parents;
  • prevents state agencies from discriminating against individuals or health care institutions that do not provide, pay for, or refer for abortions;
  • more effectively bans abortion performance and abortionist-training at the tax-funded KUMed Center.

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Hobby Lobby, I stand with (2)The U.S. Supreme Court today upheld, by a 5-4 majority, the right of business owners to operate their family companies without violating their deeply held religious convictions against abortion.

The decision in the Sebelius (now Burwell) v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. ruling, is here, with legal comment here.

Justice Samuel Alito authored the majority opinion, declaring that the ‘HHS contraception mandate’ (a regulation issued under Obamacare) substantially burdens the Constitutionally-protected free exercise of religion.

The essence of this ruling is that the government may not create an artifice of a health mandate to force citizens to underwrite and promote abortion.

Although regularly termed as litigation against the HHS contraceptive mandate, Hobby Lobby (and other businesses) filed suit specifically in objection to being forced to provide some contraceptives—those that act to abort human embryos—under the HHS mandate.

Specifically, they objected to 2 drugs and 2 IUD devices, labeled as contraceptive, that actually can prevent implantation of the already-formed human embryo into the womb for gestation, also called a ‘post-fertilization abortifacient function’. (Read a thorough analysis of contraceptives from pro-life OB/GYN, Donna Harrison here.)

Furthermore, when evaluating the governmental interference with religion, the Court found that the HHS mandate violates the “least restrictive means” test of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). RFRA demands that interference with religious freedom must be based on a compelling governmental interest, and be executed in the least restrictive means needed. Without ruling whether the goal of insurance provision of contraception is really a compelling governmental interest, the Court ruled that the HHS mandate, as a means of achieving that goal, is out of bounds.

The Court affirmed that freedom of religious expression is not limited to a person in his/her private, individual capacity, but –as set out in RFRA — extends to him/her when acting as a corporation, whether for-profit or non-profit.

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U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS)

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS)

Kansas’ U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts has taken a leadership role in battling government restrictions on health care and to that end, on Tuesday filed the “Repeal Rationing in Support of Life Act,” see video here.

This is the third in a series of bills, part of a comprehensive effort by Sen. Roberts, to prevent the federal government from limiting access to life-saving medical care for patients at all stages of life.

“Obamacare has made many Americans fearful that cost-cutting and rationing of care will limit their options for health care at a time when they are vulnerable–when they are sick or battling a life threatening condition,” Roberts said. “By introducing this bill, we are fighting against hidden barriers to treatment and life-saving medicine.”

Roberts’ bill targets four rationing provisions of Obamacare for repeal:

1) the “excess benefit” tax coming into effect in 2018, which unfairly limits employee plans from keeping pace with medical inflation;
2) the current exclusion of adequate health insurance plans from the exchanges;
3) limits now curtailing senior citizens’ ability to add their own money in addition to Medicare payment for health insurance including Medicare Advantage; and
4) federal limits on the care doctors are allowed to give their patients.

Roberts’ legislation (see bill details here) is endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee, which has delineated rationing dangers in Obamacare in this NRLC report and in a recent Q & A article here.

Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, stated, “Obamacare authorizes Washington bureaucrats to create one uniform, national standard of care that is designed to limit what private citizens are allowed to spend to save their own lives. We commend Senator Roberts for his bill and his consistent leadership to end Obamacare’s rationing.”

The bill is cosponsored by Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

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religious freedom (2)Good news! A second court ruling showed skepticism that the Obama administration intends to enact a meaningful “accommodation” of the conscience rights of non-profit groups battling the HHS insurance mandate.

A Washington, D.C. circuit Court of Appeals overturned lower courts and ruled Tuesday that the lawsuit of two plaintiffs– evangelical Wheaton College and Catholic Belmont Abbey College— will not be dismissed.

HHS has denied the colleges exemptions from the mandate that health insurance provide free abortion-causing drugs and sterilization. And although the Obama administration had previously announced plans to create a new rule, or accommodation, it has not yet taken the steps necessary to make that promise legally binding.

The Court of Appeals decided the colleges’ cases should stay alive while it scrutinizes whether the government will meet its promised deadlines. In fact, it ordered that HHS must appear in court every 60 days until its promised accommodation has become part of the official Obamacare “preventative services” regulatory regime!

Over 100 individuals, schools and businesses have sued the HHS mandate. Just last week, a New York district judge resisted the Obama attorneys’ claim that the grounds for these religious liberty lawsuits will soon disappear once the accommodation is made. District Judge Brian Cogan didn’t buy that logic; he allowed the Catholic Archdiocese of New York lawsuit to go forward, saying,

“There is no, ‘Trust us, changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution.”

Of course no serious person believes that any promised tweaking of the mandate can eliminate its essential undermining of religious freedom. The mandate flies in the face of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires that only a ‘compelling’ governmental interest has any potential to infringe on religious exercise, and then only if carried out in the least intrusive way.

The Obama administration attorneys have only a liberalizing-abortion agenda, and no true compelling interest, for forcing free coverage of morally offensive “preventive” services.  They have offered ridiculous justifications for not granting exemptions, including:

  1. a person loses religious liberty rights once they run a business;
  2. religion is limited to worship inside a building and serving only those who believe as you do.

KANSAS CONSCIENCE PROTECTIONS
Kansas lawmakers have secured important conscience protection for:

  • taxpayers;
  • private employers;
  • medical personnel and facilities.

In 2011, Kansas passed pro-active legislation forbidding the establishment of elective abortion coverage in any anticipated state health insurance “exchange’ (a kind of marketplace for policies). Eighteen other states have passed similar bans.

Also that year, Kansas lawmakers passed a measure to protect employers’ right to refuse to cover any abortions (other than those to save the mother’s life) in their company health plans. Under this law, employees can buy a special, separate “rider” policy for elective abortions. This law is similar to ones other states have had for decades which have been upheld in court. The Kansas law is in effect but the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has sued, and the matter is headed for trial next year.

Under the 2012 Kansas Healthcare Rights of Conscience Act, health professionals cannot be fired, and medical facilities cannot be sued, for not performing abortions, or for not providing referrals for them. Conscience decisions on sterilizations and abortion-causing drugs are also protected.

Kansas has established significant laws to protect life and conscience, but the push to normalize abortion and restrict religious liberty continues.

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Pro-Life Action League envelopes NARAL supporter headed to hear Sebelius (photo by Matt Yonke)

Yesterday at a Chicago NARAL fundraiser, 300 attendees gave some of their loudest applause (according to the AP) to HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ mention of the Obama administration mandate that health insurance plans cover birth control without copays.

But beyond the ever faithful pro-life presence of the Pro-Life Action League, another rebuke to Sebelius was today’s good news that the U.S. House will be voting next week on a pro-life bill to UNDO abortion in Obamacare.

HR 358 the “Protect Life Act” is sponsored by Congressman Joe Pitts, and co-sponsored by all four Kansas U.S. Representatives:  Tim Huelskamp, 1st district; Lynn Jenkins, 2nd district; Kevin Yoder, 3rd district; and Mike Pompeo, 4th district. Express your support here.

UPDATE,Oct.13: In a 248-173 vote, the House approved the Protect Life Act, however Senate Democrats oppose it and President Obama has promised to veto it.

Modeled on the former “Stupak-Pitts” amendment, HR 358 would correct the numerous abortion-expanding provisions kept in the final health care law and contains important conscience protections for (more…)

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KS US Reps Huelskamp, Jenkins, Pompeo, Yoder (photo Alton/CJOnline)

U.S. Congressional reps Tim Huelskamp (1), Lynn Jenkins (2), Kevin Yoder (3), and Mike Pompeo (4) have been voting 100% pro-life for Kansans.  All 4 voted Wednesday for a successful cut-off of abortion-training and protection of medical rights of conscience.

The U.S. House of Representatives today adopted, 234-182, a pro-life amendment offered by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R- NC) and backed by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).(details here)

The amendment sets up conscience protections for “teaching health centers” (THCs) that receive certain federal funds for graduate medical education; it (more…)

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Update, Jan.5: Obamacare death panels removed after pro-life backlash.

The euthanasia watchdogs at LifeTree.com released disturbing news Friday that the Sebelius-led HHS is reinstating mandatory end-of-life counseling in the implementation of Obamacare.

After the public outcry last summer about such counselingcalled ‘pulling the plug on granny‘– the offending section was removed.

Smart observers, conservative and liberal, recognize that government single-payer insurance (like that of Canada and the U.K.) will necessarily search for mechanisms to reduce the number of medically-expensive elderly and disabled.

Such is the preoccupation of the Kansas City-based Center for Practical Bioethics [CPB], headed by (more…)

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KFL director Mary Kay Culp & others- not the press- located Sebelius at a Tom Holland fundraiser Wed. in Mission Hills

As governor, Kathleen Sebelius was never challenged by the media about her abortion funding or her dishonesty in EVERY veto message of pro-life bills.

Now, Sebelius continues to lie about Obamacare to select audiences and only U.S. Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS) (see past posts here and here) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) –not the press—are holding her feet to the fire.

NRLC’s Powell Center blog and Politico chronicled Sen. Grassley’s scolding of Sebelius’ bold misstatements to a Florida AARP gathering this month, as caught on the HHS website.

Sebelius’ speech said, “there will be more Medicare Advantage plans to choose from.”  The web version was corrected twice, after Sen. Grassley challenged her with the facts.

Grassley had written Sebelius, “I find it particularly troubling that the section of your speech dedicated to setting the record straight …contains substantial misinformation and omissions. (more…)

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The path to rationing and denial of health care under Obamacare is underway and Kansas’ Sen. Pat Roberts is disgusted at the lies and actions about it by HHS Head Kathleen Sebelius.

Senate Republicans were on the Senate floor Tuesday to try to unravel at least parts of Obamacare.  When it was Roberts’ turn, he

slammed Sebelius for threats and behavior, comparing it to ‘Gangster Government’ and urging her to reconsider use of these tactics.

“I am really stunned by my former Governor’s actions over the past year or so.  First it was the gag order on Humana insurance for daring to describe the consequences of slashing more than $100 billion from Medicare Advantage to their customers.  Now [she] explicitly threatens health insurers who don’t toe the line on Obamacare with exclusion from the state health insurance exchanges which start in 2014. “

Roberts said that while some of the provisions that “will be beneficial to some Americans” — like allowing children under age 26 to remain on their parent’s insurance — they won’t be cost-free.  “Instead of admitting that their policies are causing health insurers to raise their rates,” Roberts said, “the Obama Administration has unleashed…Sebelius to intimidate and silence its critics…by intimidation.”

He also railed about Secretary Sebelius’ s taxpayer-financed mailer, sent this summer to seniors across the country, falsely proclaiming that Medicare Advantage enrollees would see no changes.  “Already we are seeing insurers like Harvard Pilgrim drop their Medicare Advantage plans altogether as a result of Obamacare’s huge cuts.  So actually, thousands of seniors WILL see changes in their benefits– they won’t have any.”

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Dr. Donald Berwick, an advocate of health care rationing and redistributing wealth through the health-care system, failed to attend a forum gauging his performance so far as the Medicare chief.

Berwick– appointed administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) without a Senate confirmation hearing or vote– will not answer questions from the U.S. Senate, according to Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts and members of the committee with oversight over his nomination.

“We’ve been trying to get him to answer questions in writing. He won’t do that,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). “We’ve been trying to get him up for a hearing. He won’t do that.”  The Senators want to examine Berwick’s “role and background” as he implements the largest overhaul of the healthcare system in 45 years.

Current polls show Americans want that overhaul repealed: 56% (CNN) and 61% (Rasmussen).  Kansans for Life has based our Obamacare opposition on the new ways abortion and rationing have become embedded into health care.  Our parent group, National Right to Life Committee, terms Berwick a “one-man death panel.”

Sen. Roberts’ press release included questions he wants Berwick to respond to and noted,

“The American people deserve to hear Dr. Berwick’s plans for radically reforming the American health care system directly from the man himself.”

“They deserve to hear him explain: His long history of support for rationing; How he plans (more…)

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