Beginning Wednesday, private insurers are required to cover contraceptive services in new plans without a co-pay as mandated by the health care reform law. To mark the occasion, several Republicans held a press conference, including several freshman members like Kelly. For months, Republicans have claimed that the mandate is a violation of religious freedom -- a debate which played out in Congress earlier this year when Democrats claimed Republicans were waging a "war on women" and Republicans responded that the mandate constituted a "war on religion."
Kelly wasn't the only representative to speak about the rule in apocalyptic language. "We're not the land of the free anymore, and we need to get that straight," Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) said. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY) sounded a similar note. "And as Mike said, August the 1st is a day that we as American will look at as the largest assault on our First Amendment rights," she said.
Kelly is also not the only person to invoke September 11 in response to the health care law. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) compared the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the health care law to the attacks on September 11. Pence later apologized, calling the remarks "thoughtless."
In a statement explaining the Congressman's remarks, Kelly's communications director Julia Thornton didn't back off the comments.
The HHS mandate is an undeniable and unprecedented attack on Americans' First Amendment rights. Our freedoms and way of life have been under attack before, from both internal and external threats. If we fail to defend our constitutional rights, we risk losing the freedoms that so many brave men and women have given their lives to defend throughout the course of our nation's history. We will not turn a blind eye to the HHS mandate's attack on our religious freedom and we will work to stop this unconstitutional mandate from taking away our God-given and constitutionally protected freedoms.
"Today is the day religious freedom died in America," Kelly said.