Former Rep. Stupak Says HHS Mandate Is Unconstitutional

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CNS) – The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) mandate that would force many religious institutions to provide free contraceptives against their consciences is illegal, former U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Sept. 4 during a meeting of pro-life Democrats.

During debate over the legislation that would become the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Stupak negotiated an executive order with the Obama administration that guaranteed the act would not violate the Hyde Amendment, which forbids federal funding for any abortion or abortion-related care. The HHS mandate violates that executive order, as well as the Hyde Amendment itself, Stupak believes.

“Specifically, as written, it violates the law and violates the executive order,” said Stupak, who decided not to seek re-election after passage of the health reform law.

Last year, as her agency set forth the nuts and bolts of the Affordable Care Act, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius declared that nearly all employers must include free contraception and sterilization services in their health insurance policies.

HHS drafted a narrow exemption for religious employers who object to providing contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs as mandated, but to be exempted they must serve and hire people primarily of their own faith.

Catholic schools, hospitals and charitable organizations would not qualify under that standard; they would either have to provide such coverage in violation of Catholic teaching, pay steep annual fines in order to keep providing health insurance to their employees and students or stop providing health insurance entirely.

Bewildered and Perplexed

Stupak said he was “bewildered” and “perplexed” by the HHS mandate when it was announced last summer. Religious organizations led by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops bristled, and under the vocal leadership of Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, conference president, they fought back.

They denounced the move at first, asking the Obama administration to back off the HHS mandate.