On June 10th, the Thomas More Society, a national nonprofit public interest law firm, filed a lawsuit challenging the 2019 Illinois Reproductive Health Act’s mandate that all Illinois insurance plans cover medical and surgical abortions. The lawsuit was filed in the Sangamon County Circuit Court on behalf of the Illinois Baptist State Association, the Southland Smiles dental practice and its owner Dr. Richard Mantoan, and the Rock River Cartage freight company and its owner Curt House. Governor J.B. Pritzker, the Department of Insurance, and the department’s director Robert Muriel were named as defendants.
One aspect of Illinois’ abortion law, passed along party lines last summer, is mandated coverage of either medication or surgical abortion by any employer who also provides pregnancy-related coverage. The law applies both to public and private health insurance companies, leaving no exemption or alternative for employers, employees, or companies.
In a video statement, Nate Adams, Executive Director of the Illinois Baptist State Association, said that the association represents nearly 1,000 churches, church plants, and mission congregations:
Our churches believe that abortion represents a grave injustice… and believe that society has a responsibility to affirm, through the laws of the state, a high view of the sanctity of human life, including fetal life, in order to protect those who cannot protect themselves….
Compelling the Association to provide and pay for coverage of abortion is a violation of the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act. This Association cannot morally participate in the funding of abortion, which we declare to be in conflict with our deeply held beliefs. The state of Illinois is forcing us to do that, and that is illegal.
The lawsuit calls for judicial review, for the court to declare the abortion coverage mandate unlawful, and for a permanent injunction against enforcement of the mandate.
In an emailed press release provided to Live Action News, Thomas More Society Vice President and Senior Counsel Peter Breen said, “Radical partisans have forced employers of faith in Illinois into a terrible choice: either pay for the intentional termination of unborn children, or leave your employees’ families and your own without health insurance. The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly condemned this sort of government coercion against people of faith, including in the 2014 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. decision. Illinois law protects the sincerely held beliefs of our state’s nonprofits and businesses, but our state’s politicians and bureaucrats have sat silent in response to the conscientious objections of people of faith to paying for elective abortions.”
Breen went on to call the mandate “a blatant violation of the religious and conscience rights of Illinoisans,” adding that “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, which compel us to avoid paying for health insurance coverage of abortion.”
Breen went on to say, “The people of Illinois shouldn’t have to sue to have their fundamental religious rights recognized, but just as we succeeded in reopening our state’s churches through vigorous court actions, we will fight this abortion insurance mandate until it is reversed.”
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