Washington D.C., Mar 13, 2014 / 01:03 am
Former congressman Bart Stupak wrote a column Tuesday in support of the owners of for-profit companies who object to providing contraceptive drugs which can cause abortions.
"I'm proud to stand with the Green and Hahn families and their corporations, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, in seeking to uphold our most cherished beliefs that we, as American citizens, should not be required to relinquish our conscience and moral convictions in order to implement the Affordable Care Act," Stupak wrote March 11 in USA Today.
The Supreme Court is due to hear oral argument in the corporations' cases – filed against the Health and Human Services department – March 25. Both challenge the department's federal mandate, issued under the Affordable Care Act, that employers offer health insurance plans covering contraception and sterilization, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
A pro-life Democrat, Stupak, who represented Michigan's first congressional disctrict from 1993 to 2011, voted for the Affordable Care Act only after President Obama promised to sign an executive order barring federal funding of abortion through the act.
Stupak wrote in his column: "I was eager to see many of the reforms in the act, including its provision to lower health care costs for women by increasing access to affordable preventive care."
"I continue to believe the Affordable Care Act is critical to reforming our health care markets and providing a critical safety net for millions," he said, adding that his objection "is that the preventive care provisions force businesses and their owners to extend health insurance coverage to methods of contraception that may cause the abortion of new embryos: new human beings."
"It is possible to support the president's signature legislation and still object to the way the preventive care provisions have been applied by the Department of Health and Human Services."
Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood are both owned by Christians, who object to abortion. The U.S. government has argued that neither the First Amendment right to religious freedom nor the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, extends to owners of for-profit businesses as they make decisions for their companies.
The business owners have argued that their faith affects all aspects of their lives, and forbids them to "check their beliefs at the door" when they go to work. They say that both the Constitution and federal law protect a broad exercise of religious freedom.
"The Greens and the Hahns cannot, in good conscience, risk subsidizing actions that may take human life," wrote Stupak. "As they have for years, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga's owners will comply with the Affordable Care Act's requirements that they provide quality health insurance for their employees, including a broad spectrum of preventive services for women. They ask only that they not be required to provide four out of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives that can destroy life in its earliest stages."
The former congressman noted their position on conscience protection dates "back to our nation's founding, when Quakers were exempted by General George Washington from bearing arms in the Revolutionary War," adding that presently, pacifists are exempted from military service, anti-death penalty doctors from assisting in executions, and pro-life nurses from helping with abortions.
"We must honor the abortion conscience principle which the Green and Hahn families are fighting to uphold as well as like-minded Americans who wish to continue to provide health care coverage and preventive care for their employees," he said.
"The Affordable Care Act struck an important balance between improving health care options and respecting conscience, a moral conscience that no one can violate, not even the federal government…I urge the Supreme Court to recognize and uphold this balance."
Stupak and the Democrats for Life of America have filed a brief in the Supreme Court cases supporting Hobby Lobby and Conestoga; this joins them to hundreds of individuals and groups from a broad range of religious and political backgrounds who have filed such briefs.