* Thomas More Society press release…
On October 21, 2019 the Thomas More Society filed a complaint against Illinois’ Reproductive Health Act with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights. The new Illinois law requires health insurance policies to cover elective chemical and surgical abortions. According to the complaint, this mandate — which compels businesses and individuals to pay for even late term abortion coverage and offers no religious exemptions — violates the federal Weldon Amendment and Affordable Care Act
“This abortion-coverage mandate is a blatant violation of the religious and conscience rights of many who live or work in Illinois,” explained Thomas More Society attorney Michael McHale. “While the secular forces behind this mandate often erroneously object to any influence of religion on the state, here they had no hesitation in wielding state power against our sincerely held, common-sense religious beliefs to avoid paying for health insurance coverage of abortion.
The law, now known as Illinois Public Act 101-13, mandates every health insurance policy in Illinois that provides pregnancy-related benefits to provide coverage of elective abortions, and to do so without cost-sharing beyond that required for pregnancy-related benefits. It does not include any exemptions for religious individuals, religious organizations, or even churches.
The Thomas More Society, a national nonprofit public interest law firm and major force in the Constitutional defense of religious liberty, filed the complaint on its own behalf and on behalf of Flossmoor dentist, Dr. Richard Mantoan and his dental practice, Southland Smiles, Ltd. Both companies sponsor small group health insurance plans for their employees and offer a number of policy options purchased through BlueCross Blue Shield of Illinois. The new mandate requires both businesses to purchase health insurance policies that cover abortions.
The complaint details how the Illinois abortion-coverage mandate violates the federal Weldon Amendment, putting Illinois in jeopardy of losing billions of dollars of federal funding. The Weldon Amendment ensures that federal appropriations to the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education may not be issued to any government that discriminates against a “health care entity,” including an insurance plan sponsor, on the basis that it does not provide health insurance coverage of abortion.
“This is exactly what the Weldon Amendment prohibits,” McHale said. “Illinois cannot force those of us who do not believe in paying for abortions to either pay for abortion coverage or drop our insurance. Doing so will require Illinois to forfeit federal funding for essential programs such as Medicaid.”
“Additional provisions of this radical abortion policy will force Illinois taxpayers to foot the bill,” added McHale, referring to the federal Affordable Care Act’s provision requiring a separation of abortion costs from other health care expenses. “It’s a direct violation of federal law. We should expect better from our lawmakers.”
“We are confident that the Office for Civil Rights will take our complaint seriously,” declared McHale. “Federal law clearly prohibits this brazen attempt to encroach upon our rights conscience. We urge immediate intervention to halt this illegal mandate.”
The complaint is here.
* React from Brigid Leahy, Senior Director of Public Policy, Planned Parenthood of Illinois…
The Thomas More Society’s complaint against the Reproductive Health Act is the latest tactic in an ongoing campaign to end access to safe and legal abortion. The Thomas Moore Society couldn’t stop the Reproductive Health Act in the state legislature, so they are desperately turning to the Trump Administration for help in cutting off access to abortion in Illinois.
The Reproductive Health Act ensures that everyone can make a personal decision when it comes to reproductive health care, including birth control, pregnancy-related care, and abortion. Having adequate coverage for care means people have the ability to make the decision that is best for them. Everyone should have coverage for a full range of reproductive health care, including abortion with access to safe medical care. Providing insurance coverage helps ensure that they will be able to see a licensed, quality health provider. Ten years ago, insurance plans routinely covered abortion just like other health care services. But, in recent years, it has become harder for Illinoisans to get insurance that covers abortion. The Reproductive Health Act addresses this issue by requiring state regulated insurance plans that cover pregnancy-related care to include coverage for abortion. This requirement is similar to a Maine law that passed earlier this year. In addition, California, New York, Oregon, and Washington require all state-regulated private health plans to include coverage for abortion.
* Personal PAC’s Terry Cosgrove…
It’s no surprise that extremists aligned with President Trump, such as Peter Breen and the Thomas More Society, who want to make abortion and birth control illegal for all women, are doing everything imaginable to enforce their right-wing religious views on everyone in Illinois.
* The RHA’s chief House sponsor, Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago)…
Once again exhibiting their complete disconnect from reality and the truth, the Thomas More Society has found a special ally in their efforts to limit access to reproductive health care in Illinois – the Trump Administration. Having been soundly defeated in the legislature – even after engaging in misrepresentations and exaggerations about the impact of the RHA, it was inevitable that they would turn to their friends in the Trump-Pence Administration, still using the tired lies we rejected this session. While we advanced access to care in Illinois, Trump appointees in Washington have attempted block people from accessing the reproductive health care, including abortion care, they need. This is just a speed bump. It will not succeed.
I asked for some examples of the group recycling “tired lies” and she sent me these two…
- The health care right of conscience act remains intact and religious objections are respected.
- The preposterous fear-mongering over abortion late in pregnancy. This is the biggest red herring of all and completely disrespects both pregnant people and health care professionals in their suggestions that it is anything but a medical tragedy when there is no other option but to end the pregnancy. Nobody does this on a whim. No doctor and no parent. It’s infuriating.
…Adding… Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake)…
This complaint is just one more ineffective attempt to deprive women of their right to quality health care.
Illinois expanded access to care with the Reproductive Health Act despite opposition from anti-women groups like the Thomas More Society, who seek to force their extremist politics onto others and limit access to safe and legal abortion.
As we proved when we passed the RHA, Illinois will not let the Thomas More Society or the Trump Administration get in the way of women’s health. Reproductive care is health care.