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Bill challenges federal contraception mandate

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Amarillo, TX - Religious freedom and state sovereignty are at the heart of renewed push against federal law in Texas.

The Obama Administration's Affordable Care Act requires U.S. employers to provide certain contraceptives in their health plans, or pay hefty fines.  but a Texas bill filed just yesterday would grant tax exemptions for religious businesses who refuse to comply.

Under current federal law, if an employer does not provide no-cost birth control in their employee health plans, they can be fined up to one hundred dollars per day, per employee.

Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned company, made national headlines when they filed suit against the mandate, saying it would cost the company $1.3 million a day.

"This penalty is designed to bankrupt these companies into submission," says Rep. Jonathan Stickland, the author of the bill, "and I know there's a lot of companies out there who simply will not break on their religious principles just to keep the doors open."

Representative Stickland introduced House Bill 649 yesterday, which does not directly confront federal law, but offers specific tax exemptions that would effectively offset the fines.  Stickland says the legislation would address a broad set of misgivings with the current federal law.

"This is a pro-life bill for some, this is a religious freedom bill for others, this is a Tenth Amendment bill for some," says Stickland. "It really embodies almost everything the Republican party should be standing for right now."

Several suits have been filed against the mandate, often citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 law which prohibits the federal government from imposing a "substantial burden" on religious freedom.

If you'd like to learn more about pending suits against the Affordable Care Act or learn more about this particular bill, follow the links attached to this story.

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