| May 7, 2013

Medicaid vs. religious freedom

You’re perhaps aware that the Oklahoma City-based retailer Hobby Lobby is challenging the HHS anti-conscience mandate, born of Obamacare, which forces employers to cover drugs — such as the “morning-after pill” and the “week-after pill” — that can end a new human life by preventing implantation of a fertilized egg. Lawyers for the Becket Fund, the law firm representing the Green family in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, say their clients “believe human life begins at the moment of conception, and believe these drugs can end life after that moment, a violation of their deeply held religious beliefs.”

In the wake of Obamacare, several Oklahomans, to their great credit, have stood up to defend religious freedom. Last year Allison Garrett, then the senior vice president for academic affairs at Oklahoma Christian University, told a congressional committee that it’s a violation of religious liberty to force employers “to cooperate in offering drugs or services that they believe are morally wrong.” Oklahoma’s senior United States Senator, Jim Inhofe, and state Attorney General Scott Pruitt have filed briefs backing Hobby Lobby’s challenge. Oklahoma Congressman James Lankford called the HHS mandate “a clear violation of the First Amendment right to religious freedom.” Oklahoma Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon is also pushing back against this sort of “religious intolerance.”

But quite apart from the Greens’ First Amendment right to religious freedom, consider for a moment the religious freedom of everyday taxpayers.

So called family-planning services — including the morning-after pill, the week-after pill, and much more — are a mandatory part of the state’s Medicaid program. They are available to Oklahomans as young as 17 — without parental consent. And they’re free; not even a modest fee or co-pay is allowed.

Now we realize that taxpayers frequently are forced to fund things (whether it’s Planned Parenthood or B-2 bombers) that they find morally objectionable. And we realize that state policymakers have no control over the federal Medicaid requirements. But it seems to us that the political leaders in one of the most pro-life, pro-religious-freedom, pro-parental-rights states in the nation should not expand a program which provides drugs that can end human lives, thus violating the deeply held beliefs of so many Oklahomans.

Photo credit: Richard Thornton /

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