Illinois’ expansive abortion law, the language of which allows for abortions up until birth and removes restrictions on partial-birth abortion, is facing a legal challenge in court over its lack of conscience protections.
The Thomas More Society filed a complaint Monday with the U.S. Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights claiming that the state’s Reproductive Health Act (RHA) violates the Affordable Care Act’s conscience protections and financial protections that keep taxpayers from funding abortions. Additionally, the organization cited the Weldon Amendment, which prevents healthcare entities including individuals, hospitals, and health care plans from being forced to perform or be involved in abortions. And as Live Action has previously reported, the RHA forces healthcare companies to cover abortions and ensures taxpayers fund abortion by making it a “fundamental right” that no level of government can impede access to.
The complaint was filed on behalf of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society as well as a local dentist, Dr. Richard Mantoan, and his practice. Both employers currently offer traditional employer-based health insurance plans through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois. The new mandate requires both businesses to purchase health insurance policies that cover abortions, which, as the complaint states, is “repugnant to our religious and moral principles.”
“This abortion-coverage mandate is a blatant violation of the religious and conscience rights of many who live or work in Illinois,” said Thomas More Society attorney Michael McHale in a press release. “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.”
Planned Parenthood defended the state’s position, as CapitolFax.com reports: “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 More 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.”
Other pro-abortion individuals, including original sponsor of the bill Rep. Kelly Cassidy, objected to the Thomas More’s Society’s protection of conscience rights, claiming their opposition to late-term abortion, which is now by law an “essential health benefit,” is “fear mongering.”
“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,” stated Cassidy. In fact, as thousands of OB-GYNs have said over and over again, there is no medical reason for abortion, and no reason it should be deemed an “essential health benefit.”
A spokesperson for the ACLU told the State Journal Register that there is a provision to provide health insurance and opt out of the RHA via the Health Care Right of Conscience Act. However, the Act was amended in 2016 with provisions stating that pro-life individuals and institutions (such as pregnancy centers) in healthcare must refer for abortions. It is unclear at t his time whether the Right of Conscience Act would be applicable in this case.
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