UPDATED – 3:20 p.m Feb. 22 – with House Minority Leader Terie Norelli's statement below.
House Speaker Bill O'Brien, R-Mont Vernon, and House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, R-Salem, said House Resolution 29 "instructs Congress to protect churches from being forced to purchase services, such as health insurance policies, that offend religious faith."
The O'Brien-sponsored resolution, which passed 227 to 121 today, is stoking partisan fires in this election year. Democrats say it's the opposition party trying to attack a woman's right to birth control. Republicans say it's about the Constitution.
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In a statement after the vote, here's what the House Speaker had to say:
"House Resolution 29 is not about the merits of contraception. It is not about whether insurers choose to offer coverage for these services in their policies. It also is not about the Catholic Church’s policies on contraception, sterilization or any other of its teachings or beliefs. Rather, HR 29 stands up for our religious institutions that have long-held principles and teachings under assault by a president and his ideology that seeks not merely to reject, but to tear down our liberties.
“Whether these groups would be forced to buy this coverage directly, as ordered by the original ObamaCare regulation, or indirectly, as suggested by the Obama Administration’s replacement accounting gimmick, the idea that a religious group would be compelled to buy a service that it finds morally repugnant and an express renunciation of its beliefs is both contrary to our values and unconstitutional.”
And the House Majority Leader, Bettencourt, a co-sponsor of the resolution:
"House leadership introduced House Resolution 29 to defend New Hampshire’s long and proud history of religious tolerance, while pushing back against the deeply flawed law known as ObamaCare. The new mandate from the Obama administration requiring religious organizations to offer insurance coverage for practices that go against the teachings and tenets of their faith is an unnecessary, cynical and unconstitutional attack on religious institutions. To those who say HR29 detracts from this legislature’s focus on New Hampshire’s economy, let us remind them this issue highlights a critical issue facing our economy, the effect of mandates on the cost of health insurance.
“Health insurance costs in New Hampshire are increasing at dramatic rates. New Hampshire businesses are seeing 60% premium increases. A considerable portion of those increases can be chalked up to state health insurance mandates implemented during the prior four years’ Democrat legislatures and those need to be repealed. We don’t need new federal mandates to drive the costs even higher. Earlier this legislative session, we passed legislation that repealed seven insurance mandates and this has helped small businesses to escape some cost increases. The extra savings from premiums may even mean there is more money in the pockets of our small businesses to create more jobs. This is the right way to reform the health care industry. Imposing anti-religious regulations on churches, under the guise of ‘women’s rights,’ achieves no reduction of costs or availability of services and serves only to please leftist ideologues."
Democrats were quick to weigh in. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat running for governor, released this statement:
"It is outrageous that Speaker Bill O’Brien and his Tea Party legislature are trying to sneak through laws to restrict women’s access to contraception and basic health care. I strongly urge the legislature to reject this infringement on a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions. As governor, I will make sure that women are able to exercise their own judgment on personal health care issues. Why is Ovide Lamontagne still silent on this critical issue for New Hampshire’s women and families."
New Hampshire House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli issued this statement:
“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does not violate any citizen’s basic right to religious freedom. Churches are exempt and insurance companies, not the organization affiliated with a church, will be required to pay for birth control costs. No individual will be forced to buy or use contraception.
“The reality is that in the United States, birth control use is widely accepted and contraceptive drugs are commonly prescribed for other health reasons. Do not let anyone fool you! This is about birth control and nothing else. It is about allowing women to make the decisions that are right for themselves and their families.”
Former State Sen. Jackie Cilley, a Democratic candidate for governor, also issued a statement, saying:
"In a continuation of attacks on the women of New Hampshire, including the removal of adequate protections against domestic violence, the NH House passed HR 29 to require Congress to allow employers to deny healthcare coverage for contraction. In another amendment attached to a non-germane bill, the House is attempting to unravel 13 years of bipartisan support for healthcare coverage for contraception."
State Rep. Sandra Keans, a co-sponsor of legislation in 1999 that enacted a policy in the state requiring insurance companies to cover prescriptions to also provide coverage for contraception, offered this statement on the passage of House Resolution 29:
"This Resolution, while it is couched in constitutional clothes, is nothing less than an attack on basic health care - not just women’s health care - but also an attack on family health care. It suggests we as politicians can make better health decisions for individuals and families than they can themselves with their doctors.”
“The story is the same today as it was in 1999 when I co-sponsored legislation to provide this same coverage. It was the right thing to provide for family care then; it is the right thing to do today. It was not a partisan issue then. It should not be a partisan issue today.