Thomas More Society Files Civil Rights Complaint Against Illinois “Reproductive Health Act”
Editor’s note. This update was provided by the Thomas More Society.
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 the 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, filed October 21, 2019, can be accessed here.