* Fox News…
The Health and Human Services (HHS) Department opened an investigation into whether Illinois violated federal law by discriminating against insurers that excluded or limited coverage for abortions.
Under the Weldon Amendment, federally funded governments are prohibited from discriminating against those insurers. The Thomas More Society, a conservative legal nonprofit, announced Tuesday that HHS had notified them of the investigation in a letter sent just before President Biden’s inauguration.
Sent by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) deputy director Luis Perez, the letter read: “OCR is investigating whether the state of Illinois, through its Department of Insurance and Department of Central Management Services, is discriminating against health plan issuers and plans that would offer health coverage that limited or excluded abortion coverage but for the Reproductive Health Act.”
Illinois’ Reproductive Health Act requires private insurers to cover abortion. It’s unclear how the investigation will proceed under Biden’s leadership, but it resembled a similar investigation HHS undertook that ultimately resulted in threatening to revoke Medicaid funding for California.
* Thomas More Society press release…
“This Illinois law requires health insurance policies to cover elective chemical and surgical abortions,” explained Thomas More Society attorney Michael McHale. “It compels businesses and individuals to pay for even late term abortion coverage and offers no religious exemptions. This is a violation of the federal Weldon Amendment.”
The Weldon Amendment ensures that federal appropriations by 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 abortion-coverage mandate is a blatant violation of the religious and conscience rights of many who live or work in Illinois,” added McHale. “And it forces exactly what the Weldon Amendment prohibits. Under federal law, Illinois cannot compel those like Dr. Mantoan or the Thomas More Society 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.”
“We are pleased that the Office for Civil Rights has taken our complaint seriously,” declared McHale. “Federal law clearly prohibits this brazen attempt to encroach upon our conscience rights. We await federal intervention to halt this illegal mandate.”
* Annie Thompson at the Illinois attorney general’s office…
We were notified – on the final day of the Trump administration – of the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights’ intention to investigate complaints filed by the Thomas More Society. In the event that the new administration follows through on this 11th hour attempt to undermine access to reproductive care in Illinois, Attorney General Raoul is committed to defending Illinois’ Reproductive Health Act.
* Jordan Abudayyeh at the governor’s office…
This sham complaint is a last ditch effort by the Trump administration to deny women their rights. The Governor’s Office will work with the Attorney General to respond appropriately, and in the meantime we look forward to working with the Biden administration to ensure women’s rights and access to healthcare are protected.