Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Thank you for contacting me
regarding access
to family
planning services. I appreciate having the benefit
of your views on this important matter.
I firmly believe that everyone
should be able to obtain affordable health insurance coverage. Americans deserve to
have competitive
options available to
them in
the health insurance
market, and I will continue to work to protect and preserve these
The Respect for Rights of
Conscience Act would have simply
preserved longstanding religious protections that have received bipartisan support in Congress.
The new Department
of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule changed these longstanding
protections and now
require employers to
provide specific additional coverage to their
employees. The specific services which employers must now purchase for their
employees are
sterilization services, certain abortifacient drugs, and contraception. There
are no exceptions, outside of a very narrow allowance for qualifying houses of
Unfortunately, many religious
organizations, such
as universities and hospitals, which up until now provided comprehensive health insurance coverage for
their employees within the religious
tenets of their
faith, are required by this rule to violate those tenets. These organizations will have
to purchase
additional benefits that violate their religiously
held beliefs, irrespective of their religious
teachings. Even
before implementation this rule, their employees enjoy access to these same
services mandated by
this regulation, as they can acquire supplemental insurance by way of a rider to
their existing policies. Alternatively, individuals can directly purchase these
services, although not necessarily through their
employer-provided plan.
On March 1, 2012, the Respect for
Rights of Conscience Act was considered on the Senate floor in the form of an
amendment. This Act would allow religious employers
to continue
providing comprehensive employee
coverage without violating their religious teachings or
moral sense of
conscience, as they
have been doing up
until now. The amendment failed to pass with a vote
of 51 to
48. Consequently, the newly issued HHS
ruling with its
family planning coverage mandate still stands, with no exception, outside of
the very
narrow window mentioned above.
While I support a robust and competitive private
market where
products and services are affordable to consumers, I have serious concerns that
this rule places some Americans in the position of violating their conscience or
religious beliefs. In so doing, I believe this rule jeopardizes Americans'
Constitutional right to free exercise of religion. As mandates for health care
services are debated in the Senate, you can be sure I will work to ensure health
care consumers have choices and to protect your Constitutional
Again, thank you for contacting
me. If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact my
office at (202) 224-2551. Sincerely,
John Hoeven United States Senator

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