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February 8 2012

We All Deserve the Freedom to Exercise Our Consciences

Carrie L. Lukas

The Obama Administration has awakened Americans to the clear costs, and inherent loss of liberty, involved in government's take-over of medicine.

As the Wall Street Journal explains today, the HHS decision to “draw the rule's conscience exceptions for 'religious employers' so narrowly” has shocked many Americans, demonstrating how the Administration is willing to run rough shod over core liberties to advance the liberal cause of government-provided medicine for all.

I hope that Americans are recognizing that government-run medicine—government-run anything for that matter—fuels conflict, and can be particularly troublesome when it comes to moral matters. I really shouldn't have to care what you think is an appropriate sex education class for a ten-year-old, for example. That is unless you are part of a government bureaucracy that's trying to create a one-size-fits-all curriculum standard which will determine what's taught in my local public school.  Then I have to care, and we end up with a lot of unnecssary controversy.

That's why I also hope that, in the case of this HHS mandate, Americans look beyond the specifics of the religious exemption. Yes, it's particularly appalling that Catholic hospitals and charities should have to face the choice of providing insurance that covers free abortion-inducing drugs or paying a heavy government fine. But it's appalling that any business should have to take orders from the government about what policies and what compensation packages they can and cannot offer employees.

I think of my father-in-law. He runs an independent pharmacy in Arkansas. As a strong Christian, he has sometimes been guided by his faith and moral code in making decisions about how to run his business. This pharmacy, like most others, sells lots of products other than medicine and drugs. When he first became owner of the store, the pharmacy had been selling tobacco products. They were, in fact, one of the better selling, higher profit items. He didn't feel good about it though.  He didn't want to make money selling something to customers that he thought was bad for them. So he stopped selling tobacco, even though it made the business less profitable.

Under the new health care regime, people like my father-in-law would be required to offer and help pay for health insurance coverage that makes contraception and abortion-inducing drugs free to the customers. Why should he have to do this? Why, in America, should this man, or anyone, be required to violate his core conscience and system of beliefs just for the privilege of being able to employ someone and to try to run an honest business?

This is the outrage.

It isn't just Catholic institutions or other religious groups, but all Americans who are being stripped of choice by our increasingly arrogant federal government which thinks it knows better than the rest of it. We shouldn't stand for it.  Americans should be clamouring not just for a more generous exemption from HHS's rules, but a repeal of these fundamentally inappropriate government mandates and a return of power and control to the people.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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