The June 28, 2012, ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court (5–4) upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPA-CA) does not affect our synod’s strong opposition to the U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) mandate that even religious institutions cover abortifacients in health care plans. Some may wonder: what does the Supreme Court ruling mean in relation to the controversial HHS mandate?
If anything, the ruling underscores the importance of speaking out all the more on this unwarranted intrusion of government on the exercise of religious and confessional freedom. Will penalties be imposed on tax-free church entities that for reason of conscience refuse to comply? Clarity on this will need to come in the months ahead. We urge all to pray for strength in our confession of the truth and for God’s protective providence.
Will the ruling upholding the health care plan enacted by Congress be interpreted to say that the contraception/abortifacient mandate issued by the HHS stays in effect even for all the religious organizations who have objected to the coverage? It would be easy to surmise the administration now is able to press forward unimpeded with the HHS ruling. On the other hand, it appears the U.S. Supreme Court will have to take up the matter separately at some point in time, presumably its next session. So how will the ruling go?
There is no use speculating. Praying, yes; speculating, no.
Here is a question worthy of consideration by all Christians who take life in the womb seriously. Even if the court or the administration decides to overturn the HHS mandate for the religious institutions conscientiously objecting, should this somehow diminish our concern? Will the exemption do the job? Rev. Robert Fleishmann, National Director of Christian Life Resources, who also addressed our ELS convention in June, recently wrote on this subject. His comments are worth digesting, as hard as it may be to swallow the consequences for our confessional commitment:
“What about the unborn children who will still die once this provision is enforced? Will Christians still bask in their exemption? You and I are not supposed to sin. We do not take the lives of unborn children. But we are also tasked to care for others and speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Religious agencies may finagle a way to exempt themselves from paying for abortifacients as part of their insurance premiums, but this does not mean we win. Quite the contrary. History unfortunately shows that we tend to follow the path of least resistance—to the peril of those left behind. There is a place for government to respect the religious convictions of people. But if the conscience is only sensitive about oneself and not about others, then we fail miserably. If we who know better do not speak up—who will? Don’t settle for the easy way out. This provision of the national health care plan is flawed in its essence, and we need to speak against it” (Clearly Caring, 2012 Volume 32, #1).
Scripture states: “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the right of the poor and the oppressed” (Psalm 82:3). If this applies to the people who are poor and downtrodden, how much more does it apply to the helpless of the helpless—children yet in the womb but who are given no chance for life on this earth because of elective and deliberately abortive procedures resulting in their deaths? Scripture also states: “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3). This isn’t just doing right when inside the tabernacle or the temple; it is doing right even in the civic realm, with the understanding that “righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34). That involves a convincing discourse based on the reality of natural/moral law. The Bible governs where hearts are moved by the love of the Savior. In the kingdom of the world, appeal is made to consciences created under the governing of natural law.
But here is the quintessential point. What is it all about? Without the end goal—love and concern for the eternal well-being of every soul, born or unborn—no amount of protection for temporal life on this earth will suffice. Believers in Christ desire for every sin-tainted life entering our world via the womb the connection by faith to the great work of our redemption. This comes through Baptism and contact with the Word. Apart from such Spirit-worked faith, only eternal destruction awaits. But with this faith, there is hope and purpose for every newborn soul! “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
No wonder it was said so long ago of those who are Christians, “They marry like all other men and they beget children; but they do not cast away their offspring…Their existence is on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven” (Epistle to Diognetus). Cast away offspring? Perish such a thought! Christ has redeemed their souls no less than ours!
“He wants all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
[Our synod in convention adopted this resolution on June 20, 2012:
Resolution 4: Health and Human Services (HHS) Ruling Whereas, the Doctrine Committee has been instructed to keep the membership of the synod informed about issues in government, law and society which may encroach on religious freedom, and
Whereas, the recent HHS ruling is an incursion into religious liberty, because it requires that all private health care plans, including those of institutions and individuals who object on religious grounds, must cover sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception, therefore,
- Be it resolved, that the delegates of this synod convention be encouraged to inform the membership of their congregations about the issues and challenges of the HHS ruling, and,
- Be it resolved, that the synod president be directed to produce a statement about the HHS ruling for the August issue of the Lutheran Sentinel.]