Thursday, April 24, 2014

SCOTUS hears case on free speech re: abortion in Obamacare

Excerpted from "Campaign speech case is regulatory overkill," commentary by George F. Will, Washington Post, April 18, 2014 - Former U.S. representative Steve Driehaus, a Cincinnati Democrat who considers himself antiabortion, says he lost his 2010 reelection bid because the antiabortion Susan B. Anthony List violated Ohio’s law with ads saying that when he voted for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), he voted for taxpayer funding of abortion. When he learned that the SBA List planned to erect billboards proclaiming “Shame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortion,” he filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission, the truth arbiter and speech regulator. So the billboard company refused the SBA List’s business.

Driehaus says the ACA does not specifically appropriate money for abortions. The SBA List counters that the ACA can subsidize abortion-inclusive insurance coverage.

Driehaus says insurance companies must collect a “separate payment” from enrollees and segregate this money from federal funds. The SBA List says money is fungible, so this accounting sleight of hand changes nothing.

Driehaus says an executive order issued after passage of the ACA, which was promised to get him and a few other pro-life Democrats to vote for the act, prohibits ACA funds from being used for abortions. The SBA List says the executive order proved that the ACA itself allowed taxpayer-funded abortions.

Ohio’s law, which obviously is designed to encourage self-censorship, certainly chilled the SBA List’s political speech. The SBA List’s brief to the Supreme Court notes that “a law requiring citizens to pay $1 before they could publicly comment on electoral issues or candidates for office would be immediately justiciable (and promptly invalidated).” Yet Ohio’s law makes it easy for literally millions of Ohioans to subject participants in the political process to much more expensive costs — not to mention the threat of incarceration.

This case, which comes from Cincinnati, where the regional IRS office was especially active in suppressing the political speech of conservative groups, involves the intersection of two ominous developments. One is the inevitable, and inevitably abrasive, government intrusions into sensitive moral issues that come with government’s comprehensive and minute regulation of health care with taxes, mandates and other coercions. The Supreme Court will soon rule on one such controversy, the ACA requirement that employer-provided health-care plans must cover the cost of abortifacients. The other development is government’s growing attempts to regulate political speech, as illustrated by the Obama administration’s unapologetic politicization of the IRS to target conservative groups.

These developments are not coincidental. Government’s increasing reach and pretensions necessarily become increasingly indiscriminate.


Jonathan ImbodyCMA VP for Govt. Relations Jonathan Imbody: – “Government actions hostile to religious freedom have triggered a raft of cases that now are reaching the Supreme Court. They're worth tracking because (a) they involve our faith-based and pro-life colleagues and (b) the principles impact virtually every believer, and especially those who own or work for businesses--including medical and dental practices. These cases include, but are not limited to:
  1. the recently heard religious freedom cases of faith-motivated for-profit employers forced to violate their conscience convictions by participating in providing HHS-mandated contraceptives that the FDA notes can end the life of a human embryo;
  2. the free speech case analyzed above, of a pro-life organization censored for political speech that sought to educate voters on abortion-related provisions in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare);
  3. the upcoming religious freedom cases (of a total of nearly 100 cases in all) of non-profit organizations also opposed to participating in the HHS contraceptives mandate.
“With the number of Americans who hold no religious affiliation increasing (read my analysis of that trend here), the faith community is losing natural supporters of religious freedom. That means we have to step up our efforts to protect ourselves in law and also to educate our countrymen.

“Some basic points to emphasize about religious freedom:
  1. Faith-based groups help the poor and needy. (Polling shows that even the non-religious still appreciate the charitable services of the faith community.)
  2. Religious liberty protects against discrimination and promotes tolerance and diversity. (Why should religious views be censored in the public arena? Religious tolerance is a hallmark of our democratic republic designed to aid the coexistence of disparate groups and viewpoints.)
  3. A threat to one group’s First Amendment freedoms is a threat to all. As Protestant Pastor Martin Niemoller lamented after serving in a concentration camp during the Nazi holocaust, ‘First they came for the Jews. I was silent. I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists. I was silent. I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists. I was silent. I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me. There was no one left to speak for me.’”


CMA SCOTUS brief in Hobby Lobby religious freedom case

CMA’s Freedom2Care website on freedom of faith, conscience and speech

CMA commentaries


Use our easy pre-written customizable message to support H.R. 940 - Healthcare Conscience Rights Act (House bill) and S. 1204 - Health Care Conscience Rights Act (Senate bill)

1 comment:

  1. Janet E Patin, MDMay 6, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    "Religious liberty" to discriminate against those who do not share the employer's view does not protect the victims of that discrimination. It is disingenuous to claim, "A threat to one group’s First Amendment freedoms is a threat to all" when it is the religious who are making the threat, restricting health care access to their employees so as not to stain their own moral conscience. An employer receiving public funds should not be allowed to impose their personal moral standards on employees. To say that coverage of birth control or abortion services or insurance for same-sex partners threatens the soul of the employer, thus justifying institutional discrimination, is to be a modern Pharisee. Don't we worship the same Jesus who welcomed prostitutes and tax-collectors? He did not cut them off, but instructed, "Go and sin no more." Our energies are better spent showing the world compassion and reasons why not to pursue actions you find objectionable than trying to codify discrimination. That stains all Christians, and undermines the message of Christ's redeeming love.