Court got it right in Hobby Lobby case
Re July 7 letter, "Far right, courts, lawmakers waging a war on women:" Regarding Cynthia Swanson's assertion that there is a "war on women," name-calling and man bashing are poor substitutes for facts.
Despite her best efforts to turn it into a partisan mudpie to sling at the "all male, Catholic" majority, the recent Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court is a perfect example of how the three branches of government were designed to work.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993) (RFRA) provided that where Congress or a state passes a law which substantially burdens a person's religious freedom then the government must 1) show that it has a compelling reason for the law; and 2) must accomplish its goal in the least restrictive manner.
Congress has since passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has a goal of providing preventive health services to Americans. The Health and Human Services department (HHS), part of the executive branch, is given the power to determine what those services will be.
HHS ruled that health care plans had to provide for the 20 contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Hobby Lobby's owners willingly paid for 16 of the 20, while objecting to the four that were designed to abort a fertilized egg. The owners claimed requiring them to pay for these four methods substantially burdened their religious beliefs. The Supreme Court agreed with the company.
Thus HHS had to demonstrate a compelling interest in passing the ACA. The court found that providing health care is a compelling interest. Next, the government had to demonstrate that forcing the owners to pay for the four methods was the least restrictive system for providing this kind of health care to Hobby Lobby's female workers. The court found that there was, in fact, another less restrictive method -- namely that the government provide these methods.
There are no absolute rights granted by the Constitution, including the right of religious freedom. Balances must be struck between the rights of individuals and the powers of government. Many of the cases decided by the Supreme Court try to establish "tests" for determining how a particular balance should be struck. The ideas of a "compelling government interest" and a "least restrictive means" aid in restraining arbitrary infringements on individual freedoms.
What is deeply troubling is that very significant legal and moral issues -- after nuanced and thoughtful review by our judicial system -- are met with a hyperbolic and hysterical rant by those who see everything as partisan ammunition. A little balance in the discourse is needed more than ever.
Janet and Richard Evans
Pay for birth control or pay for raising the kid
Regarding Mr. Robert V. Pandori's July 14 letter ["Let people pay own cost of their own birth control"] about subsidizing birth control with tax dollars.
The way I look at it, it must be cheaper to pay for a few pills than to pay for the cost of rearing an unwanted child for 18 years, than his/her child for the next 18 years, etc., etc. The liberals have us coming and going.
Sorry, Mr. Pandori, I don't think we have a chance.
Questions for Tonko on refugee relocation
Rep. Paul Tonko's recent unilateral push to use Albany as a dumping ground for illegal aliens is both dangerous and out of touch with his constituents.
The public health risk that is currently affecting our border agents, including the spread of active scabies, head lice, possible cases of tuberculosis and other unknown illnesses, will now be at our doorstep. How long will this process take? And once Albany is recognized as a halfway house for these illegals, how many more will Tonko invite?
The media calls them children. But without documentation, how do we know how old they really are? The public resources of the 20th Congressional District are already strained. We certainly do not need any additional burdens. We need to fill our vacant buildings with business and jobs -- not refugees.
Tonko claims that the federal government will pick up the financial tab, not the state taxpayers. Has Tonko forgotten who funds the federal government? What happens when the federal funds are cut off or there is another government shutdown?
The congressman will have left us with yet another federal unfunded mandate.
There is no constituent support for Rep. Tonko's plan. Congressional candidate Jim Fischer, who will seek to replace Tonko this November, has called for a much more pragmatic approach to this humanitarian crisis.
Glens Falls VA clinic is responsive to vets
Re July 4 letter, "Glens Falls VA must be more responsive": I am writing in response to Mr. William Yackel's letter about the Glens Falls Veterans Administration Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC).
I have been receiving my health care at that clinic for a long time and know a little bit about how they operate. They are a busy clinic and they do return phone calls.
I have had my provider return my calls or initiate a call to me about my health care after 5 p.m. -- when she's off the clock.
If you choose the answering machine option to speak to a nurse, they have called me back the same day.
On a professional level, as past commander of DAV [Disabled American Veterans], Chapter 158, I can say without hesitation that Tracy Arredondo, the RN administrator of the Glens Falls CBOC, a veteran herself, and her staff are dedicated and responsive to veterans' health care needs.
As far as the people at the counter not answering phones, they are busy working on patient care on their computers. I know this because I have asked.
I don't know all the regulations that the VA CBOC's operate under, but if he is not registered as a patient in upstate New York, they may not be permitted to provide any care to him at that clinic or elsewhere in upstate New York because they probably can't access his records.
Mr. Yackel calling the clinic phone number while in the clinic to have his "gotcha moment," well, that's another issue.
I hope Mr. Yackel was able to receive his blood test in a timely manner and that he is well. I encourage him to contact the Veterans Service Center at the VA Medical Center in Albany for guidance on how to make sure he can have his health care needs met while traveling.
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