Aborting Religious Freedom

Just when you thought Obamacare could get no worse, we learned this week that the fundamentally flawed and overreaching law will include a $1 abortion insurance payment surcharge.

That’s right. Obamacare now demands that Americans will directly pay for ending the life of an unborn child. So no matter if you oppose abortion on conscience grounds, as I do — and as Christians, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and many others do — you will be forced to pay abortions under the new law. Whether you believe in the practice of abortion or not, your money will help someone get one.

How can that be? Because not only does it force faith-based hospitals and other social service providers and religious organizations to provide employees with health insurance that covers free birth control and sterilization procedures — including the morning-after pill — it forces them to also pay for abortions.

I firmly believe what is at issue here is a sacred principle of American life and one of the inalienable rights given by our Creator captured in the Declaration of Independence and written in stone by our Founders in the First Amendment: religious freedom.  Obamacare—whether through the abortion surcharge or the contraceptive mandate—violates the fundamental conscience rights of individuals and religious institutions. It represents a war on religion—one being waged by secular liberal elites who are willing to sacrifice basic liberties protected in the Constitution on the altar of the sexual revolution.

Obamacare also violates the law.  The Hyde amendment has long prohibited funding for abortion, as well as funding for insurance plans that include abortion. Federal law is clear: taxpayer dollars cannot subsidize abortion plans that include elective abortion. Under Obamacare, this new rule would do just that—even for late-term abortions. Once enrolled in the new health care program, pro-life Americans must cough up money to pay for someone else’s abortion. This is not “social justice.” It is a form of soft tyranny.

Indeed, severe penalties will be meted to institutions that do not comply with these regulations. Religious institutions — hospitals, schools, charities– that serve the poor and treat the sick will be forced to betray their basic religious tenets or else face millions of dollars in fines. The choice is clear: abandon your faith or go out of business. This is a radical assault upon Christians and faith-based organizations of all types.

But this goes beyond whether Americans are for or against abortion. Although the country may be divided on this issue, many are against their employers providing these services under health care. According to a recent New York Times/CBS poll, Americans strongly oppose Obamacare’s mandate and favor a broad exemption for religious groups and employers who do not want to pay for birth control drugs or drugs that may cause abortion.

President Obama and the liberal media have attempted to downplay the serious repercussions of these regulations by perpetuating numerous myths. The Obama administration would have the public believe that providing drugs for abortion is a necessary part of health care coverage. Abortion is not health care—in fact, it is the exact opposite. It is destroying the innocent life of an unborn child, as well as potentially harming the pregnant mother both physically and psychologically, as numerous studies have shown. Only rarely and tragically is it necessary to save the life of a mother.

Moreover, the cost of these drugs will not be “neutral” over the long-term, as Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has said. The cost of these drugs will be shifted to the religious employer in the form of higher premiums. This debunks the oft-quoted claim by HHS that these drugs will be free. They will not. For the Obama Administration as long as it costs someone else’s money, it is free.

But these rules are nothing new. My GOP rival, Mitt Romney, established a similar abortion surcharge under Romneycare while governor of Massachusetts. Under Romneycare, enrollees pay a $50 abortion co-pay, and in some instances there is no co-pay at all. Mr. Romney was a pro-choice governor; now he claims to be a pro-life presidential candidate. The reality is that Romneycare established the blueprint for Obamacare—including providing abortion coverage as part of universal health care.

Unlike both Governor Romney and President Obama, I have been consistent in standing for a culture of life. Throughout my time as a public servant both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, I worked on over 25 different pieces of legislation defending life, limiting abortion, promoting adoption and protecting religious freedom.

In 2004, I supported a pro-life conscience clause within the Department of Health and Human Services that would protect the rights of pro-life doctors and nurses.  These are the very type of protections that President Obama has enthusiastically gutted.

I also successfully fought to end the gruesome and then-legal practice of partial-birth abortion by authoring the landmark Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. I actively defended President Ronald Reagan’s policy of not funding organizations overseas that promote or perform abortions. I co-sponsored and helped move legislation to make it a crime to transport a minor over state lines for an abortion in order to avoid state parental consent laws. I have also always opposed Planned Parenthood, while his family has donated to it and Romneycare embraced it.  Unlike Mr. Romney, I don’t just talk a good pro-life game. I have actually played it.

Obamacare is unconstitutional. It must be repealed—root and branch. Freedom of religion is the bedrock on which all other liberties are based. Our Founding Fathers understood this. They believed it was relatively easy to establish freedom in our Constitution; the harder task was to create an enduring system that withstood attacks on religious freedom. If we allow this health-care monstrosity to go unchallenged, we will be jeopardizing the freedoms our Founders worked so hard to ensure. Let us rally to make sure this does not happen. Let us stand with our Founders and with freedom.

Rick Santorum, a former representative and senator from Pennsylvania, is a candidate for the Republican nomination for president.