Someone whose name, and profile, have both become more prominent this election year is now staking out his turf in the looming battle over the recent HHS ruling on contraception.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012 today, marking the GOP’s first legislative response to the Obama administration’s regulation requiring coverage of contraception and sterilization for all private employer health plans.
The bill is designed to repeal the narrow religious exemption included in the federal rule. Approved on Jan. 20, it has since been denounced by Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and more than 100 bishops throughout the nation.
In a statement released Jan. 31 marking his sponsorship of the legislation, the freshman senator described the contraception mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a violation of “the conscience rights and religious liberties of our people.”
“Under this president, we have a government that has grown too big, too costly and now even more overbearing by forcing religious entities to abandon their beliefs. This is a commonsense bill that simply says the government can’t force religious organizations to abandon the fundamental tenets of their faith because the government says so,” Rubio said.
Richard Doerflinger, the associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities for the USCCB, said that the conference was still “studying” the new bill.
“We first saw the bill introduced by Senator Rubio today,” said Doerflinger, the USCCB’s chief lobbyist on life issues. “Our present focus regarding the HHS ‘preventive services’ mandate is the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179, S. 1467), which has over 135 co-sponsors in Congress [including Rubio] and would ensure that no coverage mandate in the new health-care reform act is used to violate conscience.”
“The Rubio bill relates only to religious objections to contraception and sterilization, and so would not address other problematic mandates issued under this act or any objection based solely on moral grounds. At present, our efforts to advance the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act are continuing and growing,” said Doerflinger.