NH reps seek conscience protections for medical professionals

Do you want to know who’d like to see coerced abortions in New Hampshire? Come to room 205 of the Legislative Office Building Thursday and see who comes out against a bill protecting conscience rights for medical professionals.

I’m not talking about people who might have questions about the form the bill should take or who might say the bill is unnecessary. I mean watch out for the people who call conscience protections a threat to “access” to contraception, abortion, assisted reproduction, what have you. When you hear testimony about squelching conscience rights in favor of “access,” you’re hearing a pitch for coerced abortions.

There’s more than one way to coerce an abortion. One is to forcibly terminate a woman’s pregnancy, against her will. Another is to force someone to participate in the termination.

Representatives Warren Groen of Rochester and Richard Gordon of East Kingston are proposing HB 670 to prohibit discrimination against health care providers who conscientiously object to participating in any health care services. Violations would be dealt with using civil penalties, not criminal sanctions. “Conscience” is defined in the bill as “the religious, moral, or ethical principles held by a health care provider, a health care institution, or a health care payer…. [A] health care institution or health care payer’s conscience shall be determined by reference to its existing or proposed religious, moral, or ethical guidelines; mission statement; constitution; bylaws; articles of incorporation; regulations; or other relevant documents.”

The bill would protect any individual who may be asked in any way to participate in a health care service. The protection wouldn’t be limited to people with medical degrees or titles. If you’re at all involved in patient care, HB 670 would protect you.

A similar but slightly different bill was tabled in 2012. The chairman of Judiciary at that time told his colleagues that while the language was flawed, the committee favored the idea of such a bill. There was an opposing view, written as a minority report  by then-Rep. Rick Watrous: conscience protections were “anti-patient and anti-business and would inject chaos and uncertainty into New Hampshire health care.”

A preview of testimony this week? Could be.

Conscience: what a burden. Better guard it before someone finds it too inconvenient to tolerate.

Four ways your tax dollars are funding abortion

A New Hampshire pro-life activist provides a primer on taxpayer funding of abortion

In New Hampshire Right to Life’s September 2013 newsletter, Charlotte Antal reported on four government programs that are funding abortion or helping subsidize abortion providers. Her article is extensively footnoted, and it included information new to me about abortion funding in the U.S.

Here’s a brief summary of Charlotte’s findings. See the original article linked above for citations and footnotes.

Repeal of the “Mexico City Policy.” For years, that policy halted U.S. funds from going to non-governmental organizations that perform abortions or “actively support” abortion as a means of birth control. Repeal was one of President Obama’s priorities when he was first elected, and he was backed by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) among others.

Abortions for undocumented immigrants in custody of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division of the Department of Homeland Security. This one was news to me. Limited to cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother, abortion is available to female detainees. It’s listed as one of the “pregnancy services” available, on a par with prenatal care.

Insurance premiums under Obamacare include a fee for abortion “services” to be paid by enrollees – all enrollees, regardless of age, sex, family status, or conscientious objection to abortion.

Contracts with Planned Parenthood to be an Obamacare “navigator.” In New Hampshire, PP has a contract worth about $145,000 to assist consumers in five New Hampshire counties to sign up for health insurance. As Charlotte asks, “why are we giving even more tax dollars to the nation’s biggest abortion provider?”

Charlotte’s article gives a glimpse into how hard it is to keep abortion providers away from your pocketbook. This is a constantly shifting area, with policies and laws subject to change at any time. Vigilance is a challenge. My thanks to Charlotte for sounding this particular alert.

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Time for NH’s Congressional Delegation to Affirm the First Amendment

The President and the federal department of Health and Human Services, emboldened by the pathetic retreat on this issue by most Republican candidates for office last fall, are still pushing the HHS mandate as part of the “Affordable” Care Act. Cosmetic tweaks have not improved it. If an individual has religious objections to contraception, sterilization, or abortion-inducing drugs, she should not be forced to pay to provide them to anyone. That’s basic First Amendment protection. The HHS mandate, not yet enforced but on the way, violates that. The President is still seeking to put his health plan ahead of the First Amendment.

More action needed? Absolutely.

I recommend www.call2conscience.com for a quick link to New Hampshire’s federal legislators. Tell them to put conscience protections into ANY appropriations bill. No conscience protection? Then cut off funds to enforce the mandate. Senator Ayotte has been very respectful so far of the need for conscience protection; Sen. Shaheen has not. Reps. Shea-Porter and Kuster were not in office last year and so have not been heard from officially on this. Time for them to go on record.

For more background, check out some of my posts from last year on the mandate: It Takes a Village to Kill a Mandate; Mandate Rationale? Try Checking Under the Penumbra; and Go Back to the Drawing Board.

Memo to the President: Mandate 2.0 is still a failure

Dear President Obama,

I see that your Administration has just issued new rules in an attempt to appease me and all the other Americans who have concerns about your mandatory-contraception coverage. The formal fact sheet describing these rules says that you are accepting feedback through April 5. Perhaps something new will come up within the next two months, but I already have plenty of “feedback” for your consideration.

Your HHS Mandate, so called because the Department of Health and Human Services is implementing your “Patient Protection and Affordable Care” Act, rested on your conclusion that it was a matter of public health for women to be rendered chemically or surgically sterile for most of their reproductive years. This was so important to you, in fact, that you approved calling such practices “preventive” and making them available with no co-pay.

You cited advisors at the “Institute of Medicine” who concluded that it is much cheaper for women to be chemically altered than to have babies. Sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs made it into the Mandate as well. No corresponding concern for the cost savings attendant upon male contraception and sterilization made it into your guidelines for “preventive” services.

So, here’s my first concern as I contemplate your new rules: Your contempt for my religion still permeates your health care plan. It is a matter of deep religious belief for me that fertility is a gift, to be regulated by means consistent with human dignity, and at no point considered to be a public health problem. And if you call contraception “preventive,” then you are calling fertility a problem.

Second concern: Women aren’t broken and they don’t need fixing. If only you hadn’t called contraception for women a “preventive” service, we wouldn’t need to have this conversation. How ironic that an Administration that has claimed “being a woman shouldn’t be a pre-existing condition” has codified precisely the opposite.

Since contraception is a direct violation of Catholic teaching, the Mandate hit home for all the Catholic bishops in the United States. They spoke out with one voice. This is no small matter, since many people depend on Catholic churches and schools for employment and insurance coverage. Soon after the bishops cast a glaring light on the religious-liberty violation inherent in the Mandate, representatives of other faiths spoke up with the same concerns.

It took you several months, but your Administration started carving out exemptions. At first, your Mandate restricted the definition of exempt religious institutions to those that primarily serve people of that particular faith. Hospitals and schools that didn’t screen users for religious conformity didn’t count. You were quite justly criticized for attempting to tell the American people what a “religious institution” looked like.

Today’s new regulations appear to address that, sorta kinda. Instead of one executive agency (HHS) deciding what’s religious, you are turning the matter over to another executive agency, the IRS, that has been making that determination for years. The new regs also exempt non-profit religious organizations that meet four criteria, or jump through four hoops, to the satisfaction of whatever agency is going to implement this whole policy. Seldom do the American people have cause to be glad the IRS is going to define religion, but at least by bringing the tax people into it, you are making an effort at consistency.

But what about individuals? What about groups that do not hold themselves out to be “religious” but are nonetheless animated by a respect for life that makes the Mandate abhorrent to them? What about a business owner – someone who owns a hobby store, as an example – who has religious objections to providing contraception and abortion-inducing drugs by way of employee health insurance?

Third concern: Individuals have religious liberty AND conscience protection under our Constitution, and those protections are not forfeited when individuals form groups or run businesses. 

Mr. President, maybe your own conscience dictates that contracepted women are good for public health, quite apart from what the Institute of Medicine tells you. Even so, your Mandate fails as valid public policy. Today’s rules might render moot some of the court challenges to the Mandate, but not all. It appears that your Administration will have to defend the proposition that in the name of public health, the First Amendment does not apply to individuals. That’s a tall order.

You could have avoided all this simply by declining to classify women’s induced infertility as a “preventive service.” You could have left alone the co-payments for contraception. Since you acted as you did, and since you are sticking to that, there is no way I can support the Mandate. I will do everything in my power to support legal efforts to overturn it.

With all due respect,

Ellen Kolb