Anyone who hasn’t heard the women’s voices speaking out against the Obamacare anti-conscience mandate over the past few weeks hasn’t been listening very well. Yesterday, to make sure they’re heard, women from diverse backgrounds gathered at Heritage to join their voices with countless others in dispelling the myths about mandate and denouncing the Administration’s most recent assault on liberty.

On Monday, The Heritage Foundation and the National Review Institute hosted “Women Speak Out: Obamacare Tramples Religious Liberty.” Representative Ann Marie Buerkle (R–NY) joined policy experts and faith leaders to discuss how religious liberty has become an early casualty in Obamacare’s collision course with freedom.

“This is not an issue of birth control or of contraception, or abortion, or sterilization,” Buerkle stated. “This is an issue of First Amendment rights.”

The anti-conscience mandate will force employers to provide coverage and pay for abortion-inducing drugs, such as Plan B and the “week-after” pill ella, in addition to contraception and sterilization. The mandate’s offensively narrow religious exemption fails to protect many religious employers such as schools, hospitals, and social service groups, some of whom hold deep religious and moral objections to providing for such services.

“There are no adequate conscience protections in this mandate for mercy in society given by the church,” explained Maggie Karner, director of Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod’s Life and Health Ministries. She continued:

For religious people, mercy is not confined to our houses of worship. It is not about caring for ourselves. It is about caring for others, those outside the walls of the sanctuary and in the most needful areas of our society.… But we can only do so if we are given the freedom to work within the framework of our beliefs. The anti-conscience mandate does not allow that. It does not allow for the free exercise of our First Amendment rights.

Backed into a corner, where the only routes of escape from the coercive mandate are violating deeply held beliefs or paying steep fines, some non-exempted religious employers will face the tragic third possibility of closure.

“For the very first time my conscience will cost me a federal fine. Whose ends does that serve?” asked Kate O’Beirne, president of the National Review Institute. “Not the employees who currently have health insurance they’re presumably happy with.… Fewer sick people cared for, fewer children educated, fewer hungry fed—that’s the effect of millions of dollars in federal fines.”

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is representing four religious organizations in lawsuits against the Obama Administration.

“We have a Constitution that protects the religious freedom of these organizations,” Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Fund, stated. “It protects the religious freedom of the women and the men in these organizations, and they’re just asking that they be able to continue enjoying that religious freedom. This mandate hurts religious organizations. It hurts the people they serve. It’s unconstitutional.”

As Pia de Solenni, ethicist and owner of Diotima Consulting, explained: “This goes much broader than most religious groups because it’s about freedom per se. It’s about whether or not individuals have the rights to make decisions for themselves.… Are we as human beings so incompetent that we cannot make decisions for ourselves about our own health care covering the needs that we want?”

Hadley Heath, senior policy analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum—a group that has no religious stake in the debate but sees in the erosion of our first freedom an implicit attack on all our liberties—explained:

The new health law simply expands government’s role too far. This will be destructive for our constitutional design for government, for individual choice in the marketplace, and for the marketplace of ideas. In other words, at its core, Obamacare is anti-Constitution, anti-choice, and anti-competition.

It should surprise no one that a law that limits competition, restricts personal choice, and surrenders power over health care decisions to government bureaucrats would be used to run roughshod over religious liberty. As Buerkle explained:

The very essence of the health care law—the very essence of it—is that the government will tell you what your health care is going to be. So it is absolutely a logical sequence that we now have the government stepping in and saying, “Okay, we’re going to pick your conscience issues.”… This rule is nothing more than a continuation of what we’ve seen. It is just the government way overstepping its bounds.… You have the rights. You shouldn’t be going to them for permission.… We need to get government back to its proper role.

Obamacare tramples on the right to the free exercise of religion, specifically, and individual freedom, generally, and should be repealed. Until that happens, these and many other women will be in the same place they’ve been since the beginning of the anti-conscience mandate debate: standing up for religious liberty and fighting for individual freedom.

For more on this issue, watch our video: Religious Liberty: Obamacare’s First Casualty.