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No Choice in Mandating Abortion Coverage

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Politics of Religious Liberty
by Joseph Backholm | Executive Director

Last Friday, the Washington State House passed HB 1044, requiring every insurance policy to cover abortion. The bill requires

The Politics of Religious Libertycompanies, churches, or individuals to purchase an insurance plan that covers abortion or decline maternity coverage. This is the first paragraph of the bill:


Except as provided in subsection (5) of this section, if a

health plan issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2014, provides coverage for maternity care or services, the health plan must also provide a covered person with substantially equivalent coverage to permit the voluntary termination of a pregnancy.(emphasis added)


It passed largely on party lines with Democrats Rep. Chris Hurst and Rep. Roger Freeman voting with the Republicans to oppose the bill and Republican Chris Mangendanz joining the Democrats in support.


The fact that the bill passed was not much of a surprise. It is the top priority of the abortion industry in Washington, and the state House is really far left. Even Democrats from more conservative districts whose constituents are not far left generally do a good job obeying House Speaker Frank Chopp, who controls the agenda in the House.


The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.


The purpose of the bill is questionable. Every insurer in Washington currently offers abortion coverage but consumers decide for themselves if they want it. Seems kind of pro-choice, doesn’t it? But now pro-abortion advocates have moved beyond working to give women the right to have an abortion to trying to relieve a woman wanting an abortion of the need to pay for it.


From their perspective, the fact that you have a right means that no financial obstacle should ever prevent you from exercising that right. In that spirit, I sent Planned Parenthood the bill for my new shotgun.


But the point today is not to point out how bad the policy is, but to point out deception by our elected officials. Two amendments that were placed on HB 1044 are perhaps the best example I have seen recently of premeditated intent to deceive their constituents. Let me explain.


The opposition to the bill is concern over religious liberty. Lots of people don’t want to be forced to subsidize a procedure thatends a human life. Even many people not opposed to abortion would object to forcing someone who does oppose abortion to pay for one. It just isn’t right.


The original bill attempted to be concerned with religious liberty and rights of conscience with the following language:


Nothing in this section affects the right of objection based on conscience or religion as set out in RCW 48.43.065 or 70.47.160.


Those concerned about religious liberty were not comforted by this language because the State of Washington, in the case of Stormans v. Selecky, has argued for years that, despite those alleged protections, it still has the right to force a pharmacist to sell abortion inducing drugs.


In an effort to strengthen our state’s conscience protections, Rep. Jay Rodne, from the Issaquah area, proposed an amendment that would have clarified that religious freedom means you can’t be forced to subsidize abortion.


Rep. Eilene Cody from West Seattle, who supports the bill and has been a long-time advocate for the abortion industry, made a speech about valuing conscience rights and encouraged everyone to adopt the amendment. As a result, the amendment passed almost unanimously. For a moment, they almost seemed reasonable.


Then, immediately after adoption of the amendment, Rep. Cody proposed another amendment that effectively repealed the amendment that had just been adopted and restored the impotent conscience protections that are currently in law. That amendment was adopted along party lines.


For the politically uninitiated this seems curious. Why would they vote for an amendment protecting religious liberty and then pass another amendment repealing it immediately after?


The answer, as is often the case in Olympia, is politics.


With this little maneuver, they gave themselves cover. Here’s how.


During their next election, it’s quite possible that some freedom-loving constituent is going to ask their representative why they voted for a bill that harms freedom of conscience and requires everyone to pay for abortion coverage even if they don’t want it. He’ll smile calmly, thank you for sharing your thoughts, and assure you that they are just as concerned with religious liberty as you are. Then he’ll tell you about the amendment sponsored by Rep. Rodne, designed to protect conscience rights. And he’ll tell you how proud he was to vote for it.


It’s possible that he’ll have a copy of the amendment with him, just in case you want proof.


He’ll probably tell you how much he enjoys getting input from different perspectives, because only by working together can we really make policy that works for everyone.


At this point you’ll be confused. You trusted the people who told you that they were taking away conscience rights…but he had the amendment in his hands? Maybe religious liberty wasn’t really being harmed after all.


Of course he’ll forget to mention that only seconds after voting to support the amendment he’s bragging about, he voted to repeal it. But you don’t know that. And because you don’t know that, he’s now the guy who not only values religious liberty, but he’s the guy who listens to his constituents and compromises with legislators from varying perspectives to make the best policy for you.


The only problem is…it’s not true.


By adopting the first amendment, they have something they can use in campaign mailers and constituent correspondents to show how much they respect religious liberty. By adopting the second amendment, they make sure they keep the special interest group that funds their campaigns happy. The policy is bad, but at least they look good.


Maneuvers like this are why people have lost faith in their government. Legislators spend their time planning how to use their superior knowledge to deceive the people they allegedly serve.


Be that as it may, these are the politics of religious liberty in Washington.