Louisiana bishops on U.S. Senate's attempt to reverse Hobby Lobby decision

Statement from the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops

Last month, the U.S. Senate tried to do something Congress has never done before – pass legislation designed to reduce Americans’ religious freedom. This should be a grave concern to all who value our fundamental freedoms.

The new threat is a bill called the “Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act” (S. 2578). Supporters say it would reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, so for-profit corporations can be forced to cover “contraceptives” (including potentially abortifacient drugs) in their health plans despite their religious objections.

In fact the bill is much broader. It states that when the federal government decides to mandate any item in health plans nationwide, no one has a right to object that it violates their religion. The government mandate will override “any other provision of federal law” that stands in the way – whether that law protects for-profit employers, non-profit charitable organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor, insurers, employees, or individual women purchasing health care for their families on our state health exchange. Just as contraceptives have been mandated as a “preventive service” to avert pregnancy, coverage for all abortions, including late-term abortions, could be mandated to avoid live births – and any federal law protecting conscience on abortion would be null and void.

Despite grave disagreements across our nation over the moral and legal status of abortion, American lawmakers have generally been able to agree that the government should not force people to take part in such evils. Here in Louisiana, health care providers are protected from being required to violate their conscience on abortion or abortifacient drugs. The new bill is a radical departure from this tradition.

Last month the Senate narrowly failed to achieve the 60 votes needed to advance S. 2578, but it can be taken up again when Congress resumes its work in September. We encourage all of those who care about freedom of conscience, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to urge our federal lawmakers to oppose this and similar legislation. We need more respect for religious freedom in our nation, not less.

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