More than a year after the Obama administration announced a contraception mandate was part of the new health laws, the effort to restore conscience rights for employers and medical professionals is moving forward in the House of Representatives.
The biggest concern for some employers in the new mandate is that they are compelled to cover all approved contraception efforts, including the use of abortifacient drugs that terminate a pregnancy after conception. Health care professionals are also being pressured to prescribe treatments they find morally objectionable.
U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-La., is one of three House Republicans pushing new legislation to protect what he calls an eroding right of conscience. Along with Reps. Diane Black, R-Tenn., and Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., Fleming is sponsoring the Health Care Conscience Rights Act. He told WND it protects rights that have been cherished since the American founding.
"It applies a longstanding policy of conscience rights to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. It provides doctors, nurses and other health care providers with protection from discrimination for choosing not to participate in an abortion, codifying the Hyde-Weldon Amendment," Fleming said. "Third, it enables victims of the HHS mandate and discriminatory health practices to have their case heard in court."
Fleming, who is a longtime physician, said the federal government has no business interfering with this basic right.
"The government should not have the right to force you to participate in some type of behavior that is going to conflict with your conscience rights, and if it does or potentially does, you should have the ability to have access to courts, and currently that's not necessarily the case," he said. "Under Obamacare, you have reach out to the secretary of HHS. That is Secretary (Kathleen) Sebelius, who is very, very pro-abortion. So what's the chance that she's going to cede to you or in some way protect you when she's part of this whole development when those rights are taken away from health care providers?"
The legislation was largely inspired by the contraception coverage mandate, but Fleming pointed out that the protections in the legislation are much broader.
"It's not just birth control pills. It's not just the morning-after pill. It's not just abortions themselves," he said. "There are many other things that could be included in this, depending on one's religious beliefs."
Fleming is also critical of the limited scope of the Obamacare exemptions given to faith-based organizations.
"The Obama administration would say that if you are a Catholic institution, you can only limit your conscience waivers or exclusions to people of the Catholic Church," Fleming explained. "That would mean that Catholic institutions couldn't treat people of other religions, and that makes no sense. That's part of their mission."
He added, "This makes no sense not to have the kind of constitutional protections that are so necessary and provided by our Founding Fathers."
Fleming also addressed reports that he is mulling a U.S. Senate bid in 2014 against three-term Democrat Mary Landrieu.
"I have been urged to run, and I am looking at it. We're going through the metrics, the evaluation," said Fleming, who is now in his third House term and said he is happy serving where he is. "One way or another, I want to be a positive force for the people of Louisiana and the United States of America in whatever way I can serve."