Congressman Jeff Fortenberry says momentum is building in Congress for an amendment to the federal health care law to provide an exemption for matters of conscience.
Fortenberry is quick to point out that efforts to provide a conscientious objection clause to the federal health care law began shortly after it was signed into law in 2010, long before the contraception controversy arose. The bill is called the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, now with more than 200 co-sponsors in the United States House and nearly 40 in the Senate.
The administration has ruled that employee health-care coverage must include contraception. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has objected, saying that would violate Catholic doctrine. It and other religious groups have called for a reversal, insisting the rule tramples First Amendment religious rights.
Fortenberry says rights of conscience need to be protected in the federal health care law.
“All Americans, but particularly faith-based providers, are being asked to choose: obey your deeply held convictions or obey President Obama,” according to Fortenberry. “And that’s a false choice that is un-American and that violates a deeply held principle that’s been in effect since the beginning of our country.”
The recent controversy has renewed interest in the legislation. Fortenberry says some in Congress foresaw the controversy.
“We were fearful that that new healthcare law would be leveraged against American’s rights of conscience and religious freedom and that’s why we started this much earlier,” Fortenberry says.
Fortenberry says the recent controversy has nothing to do with contraception and everything to do with religious freedom.
Kevin Thomas, KLIN, contributed to this report.