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An all male panel of clergy testifies before Darrell Issa's House Oversight Committee on birth control access. 2/16/2012
Religious freedom means these guys should get to make your health care decisions for you
No one really believes religious freedom is under attack. No one thinks we must act NOW—right now!—before the anti-freedomists destroy America. In fact, countless polls have shown that Americans would rather Congress focus its attention on real issues, like, say, job creation or maybe that whole sequester thing or any of a number of problems that actually exist.

But that doesn't mean House Republicans intend to stop introducing pointless bills to protect horrible people from non-existent threats to their imaginary freedoms. Like the imaginary freedom to refuse to do your job if you think God thinks it's icky. (That's not actually in the Constitution. Trust me, I double-checked.)

So here is, yes, another ridiculous bill brought to you by some of the most prominent members of the ridiculous caucus: Tennessee Rep. Diane Black, who also recently introduced a bill to investigate Planned Parenthood just 'cause, and Louisiana Rep. John Fleming, M.D., who gets his news from The Onion. Head below the fold for the latest absurdity.

Here's the purpose of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act of 2013, H.R. 940:

To amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to protect rights of conscience with regard to requirements for coverage of specific items and services, to amend the Public Health Service Act to prohibit certain abortion-related discrimination in governmental activities, and for other purposes.

What does that actually mean? It means that if Black and Fleming and the bill's 50 cosponsors get their way, anyone in the health care profession will be allowed to deny care to patients if they feel like it. Sure, they'll say provision of care violates their "conscience"—but anyone who has taken an oath to do no harm, and then would inflict harm on a patient by refusing care, clearly has no conscience. So, yeah, try to figure that one out.

In February, the bill's sponsors sent a letter to House leadership, claiming such legislation is necessary because of "egregious violations of long-standing civil rights and religious freedoms by the current Administration." You know, like the extremely popular mandate that health insurance must cover basic preventive care, including birth control. Egregious!

The letter also claims that such legislation is necessary because a nurse in New York was "forced to take part in the gruesome dismemberment of a 22-week old unborn child." That's a rather odd way of saying that a nurse was required to perform the regular duties of her job by assisting in a simple and legal medical procedure, but hey, that's the kind of lunacy we've come to expect from these legislators. Because of course when they talk about protecting the "religious freedom" to refuse to provide care, what they really mean is the the religious freedom as defined by the Catholic Church, which is, of course extremely excited to endorse this new legislation. Other faiths—like, say, Judaism, which actually requires abortion in some circumstances and has no problem with birth control—are excluded from this definition. The freedom to follow one's "conscience," according to the Church and its Republican puppets in the House, simply means that health care providers and employers should be allowed to deny women access to reproductive health care. And no, that's not a constitutional right, it's not under assault, and it doesn't need to be protected.

As Katie J.M. Baker writes at Jezebel, "Our consciences do not need rights. Workers need rights. Women need rights. Our consciences are doing just fine on their own."

Originally posted to Kaili Joy Gray on Wed Mar 06, 2013 at 09:09 AM PST.

Also republished by Abortion, Pro Choice, Three Star Kossacks, and Daily Kos.

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