Americans have long valued and respected rights of conscience and religious freedom. James Madison, often described as the “Father of the Constitution,” said, “Conscience is the most sacred of all property.”
Madison observed that only an unwise and unjust government will “invade a man’s conscience,” which is “more sacred than his castle.”
One wonders what Madison and others might think of recent efforts by the New Hampshire legislature. The sponsors of New Hampshire Senate Bill 486 demand that you pay for abortion coverage, whether or not you would ever seek one.
Notably, the bill, which requires insurers that provide “individual or group coverage for maternity services” to include coverage for “emergency or elective abortion services,” leaves out even the simplest exemption for those with grave moral or religious objections to abortion.
The bill does, however, include a limited exception to keep the federal financial gravy train flowing into New Hampshire. The sponsors of SB 486 are apparently more concerned about not losing federal dollars than they are about not losing the First Freedom in the Bill of Rights for Granite Staters.
George Washington once wrote, “Government being, among other purposes, instituted to protect the Persons and Consciences of men from oppression, it certainly is the duty of Rulers, not only to abstain from it themselves, but according to their Stations, to prevent it in others.”
These were not mere words: when General George Washington issued a draft for the Continental Army, he led by example, exempting “those with conscientious scruples against war,” even though exempting them would mean others would have to go in their place. The man “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen” understood the importance of protecting conscience for a free society.
Despite this nation’s history of respect for the rights of conscience and religious freedom, some want to exchange that history of respect for lower-cost elective abortions.
Jeanne Hruska of the ACLU of New Hampshire, for instance, recently defended SB 486 by arguing, “The right to an abortion is only valid if you can financially access it.” Apparently abortions are only affordable if the government requires religious objectors to fund them. Would Ms. Hruska take this novel approach to rights—that they are only “valid” if affordable—with other rights that are protected by the Constitution?
Under this logic, should the ACLU be required to buy its employees firearms so that their Second Amendment rights are affordable? Maybe we need to pass a law requiring the Brady Campaign to provide free bullets to its employees so that they can practice safe shooting at the gun range. After all, the pro-abortion movement believes that the Little Sisters of the Poor and Priests for Life should be required to pay for abortion coverage.
Rights are not rights because they are “affordable.” Rights are rights because they stand strong even when they are attacked and are inconvenient.
If the only speech that is protected by the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause is speech upsetting no one, of what use is the right? If the only religious freedom that is protected by the Free Exercise Clause is the freedom to follow your religious convictions so long as no one else is inconvenienced or offended, what right of “exercise” remains?
The Bill of Rights enshrined these fundamental rights and protected them from government overreach not because they are easy to respect but because they are hard.
As a nation, we cannot sacrifice our fundamental right to religious freedom on the altar of low-cost abortions. New Hampshire Senate Bill 486 is offensive to those who cannot, in accordance with their deepest convictions, pay for what they consider to be evil, and it is a disgrace to those who cherish our nation’s history of holding sacred one’s rights of conscience and religious freedom.