WASHINGTON (September 9, 2013) – The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the federation of state right-to-life organizations, today formally urged that the director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) tell the White House that the agency cannot break the law by paying for health plans for federal employees that cover elective abortion – not even to accommodate the White House’s desire to placate pro-abortion pressure groups.
The counsel came within NRLC’s formal comment on a proposed rule published by OPM on August 8, with a deadline for public comment today.
A component of the “Affordable Care Act” (Obamacare) requires that Members of Congress and certain congressional staff buy their health plans on the new exchanges, starting January 1, 2014. OPM’s proposed rule spells out how this transition will occur, without interrupting the contributions made by the government to the cost of such plans (approximately 75% of the premium cost).
NRLC’s letter, a detailed critique submitted to OPM by NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson and Senior Legislative Counsel Susan T. Muskett, J.D., cites multiple evidences that OPM intends to allow the federal employees affected by the change to purchase plans that cover elective abortion. If this occurs, it will violate an explicit congressional prohibition, the Smith Amendment, which for most of the past 30 years has prohibited OPM from any administrative involvement in purchasing any health plan for federal employees that covers abortion (except in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest).
The NRLC letter notes that OPM spokespersons have engaged in “blatant misdirection” in recent weeks, “attempting to mislead journalists and others into thinking that the new protests [against the proposed rule] are a reiteration of objections to the manner in which the new ‘refundable premium assistance tax credits’ will be used to subsidize private health plans that cover abortion” under Obamacare. That issue, while extremely important in its own right, has nothing whatever to do with the impending violation of the Smith Amendment, the NRLC letter explains.
The NRLC comment letter concludes:
If OPM proceeds on the course indicated – expending funds for administrative expenses in connection with federal employee health plans that cover elective abortions, those involved will be violating the plain language of a valid limitation on appropriations. This would be a lawless act, and in NRLC’s view, would implicate the Anti-Deficiency Act, 31 U.S.C. § 1341. The Anti-Deficiency Act is a longstanding federal law that provides, in certain circumstances, civil and criminal liability for expenditure of congressional funds outside the limits set by Congress.
Those who dislike the policy that the Smith Amendment imposes, the President included, are free to urge Congress to repeal it. NRLC will continue to forcefully argue to Congress that federal agencies should not be engaged in any aspect of administering health plans that cover elective abortions, and that therefore the Smith Amendment should be preserved. Lawmakers may vote and be held accountable by constituents for how they vote on that question. That is the system provided by the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution does not confer on any President a retroactive, line-item veto, by which he may arbitrarily nullify specific provisions of duly enacted laws, when he finds those specific provisions inconvenient or offensive to various pressure groups to which he is politically indebted.
Therefore, NRLC urges that the OPM Acting Director inform the White House that she cannot be a party to a blatant violation of law, notwithstanding the pro-abortion pressure groups the White House feels bound to accommodate, and that OPM therefore must exclude from the program any health plan that covers abortion (except where the life of the mother is endangered, or in cases of rape or incest).
The complete text of the NRLC comment is posted on the NRLC website.