Rep. Kelly Applauds Trump Administration for Protecting Conscience Rights of Americans

WASHINGTON — U.S. Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) issued the following statement today regarding the announcement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of two companion interim final rules pertaining to the future of the preventive services mandate (“contraceptive mandate”) under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The rules would provide clear exemptions for employers, religious groups, and, in certain cases, individuals who do not wish to cover contraceptive services or abortifacients based on religious or moral objections.

“Today is a victorious day for religious liberty, common sense, and basic fairness. Five years ago the Obama administration deliberately broke from precedent and needlessly launched a divisive assault on the long-protected conscience rights of Americans. The HHS mandate was a radical and intolerant act that put government’s power over people’s rights. It forced innocent organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor – a group of Catholic nuns devoted to helping the elderly poor – to defend themselves in court. Thanks to today’s announcement by the Trump administration, a promise has been kept, normalcy has been restored, and peace of mind has been returned to millions of Americans who can once again carry out their business in a country where religious freedom is not just settled but celebrated. I look forward to the Little Sisters and others receiving final relief in court as my congressional colleagues and I do everything possible to secure their rights and prevent them from being undermined by any law or policy.”

BACKGROUND: On January 11, 2016, Rep. Kelly joined Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Senator James Lankford (R-OK) in submitting a bipartisan amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court (signed by 207 members of the House and Senate) in support of the religious nonprofits and charities challenging Obamacare’s HHS mandate, including the Little Sisters of the Poor. On May 16, 2016, the Supreme Court unanimously vacated the lower court rulings against the Little Sisters, accepting the federal government’s admission that it could meet the goals of the HHS mandate without involving the Little Sisters or using their plan.

NOTE: Key facts about today’s interim final rules, courtesy of HHS:

  • The regulations exempt entities only from providing an otherwise mandated item to which they object on the basis of their religious beliefs or moral conviction.
  • The regulation leaves in place preventive services coverage guidelines where no religious or moral objection exists – meaning that out of millions of employers in the U.S., these exemptions may impact only about 200 entities, the number that that filed lawsuits based on religious or moral objections.
    • These rules will not affect over 99.9% of the 165 million women in the United States.
  • Current law itself already exempts over 25 million people from the preventive-care mandate because they are insured through an entity that has a health insurance plan that existed prior to the Obamacare statute.
  • The regulations leave in place government programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptive coverage to low income women, such as through community health centers.
  • These regulations do not ban any drugs or devices.