House Speaker John Boehner today called the Obama administration's move to compel nearly every employer to offer insurance that covers contraceptive services "an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country."
In an uncommon floor speech today, Boehner spoke out against the Department of Health and Human Services' ruling that would require faith-based employers, including Catholic charities, schools, universities, and hospitals, but not the church itself, to provide insurance coverage for services including sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and devices, and contraception. The speaker, himself a Catholic, said he believes the regulation is unconstitutional.
"In imposing this requirement, the federal government is violating a First Amendment right that has stood for more than two centuries, and it is doing so in a manner that affects millions of Americans and harms some of our nation's most vital institutions," Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "If the president does not reverse the Department's attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must."
Boehner announced that in upcoming days, the House will enact an "effective and appropriate solution" to the controversy "fairly and deliberately" - beginning with hearings in the Energy and Commerce committee.
"Chairman Upton convened a hearing last year and began laying the groundwork for legislative action when this flawed rule was first proposed. I welcome his efforts to consider all possible options as his committee proceeds with its work," he said. "This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country cannot stand, and will not stand."
The White House is also currently exploring a compromise that ensure that women have health insurance that fully covers contraception while also allaying concerns of religious organizations that oppose birth control.
Last week, Boehner recognized that there is "obviously a lot of opposition" to the president's directive and he called on the president to "back up and take another look at this."