Anti-Abortion Group Wants Feds To Block Part of Illinois’ Reproductive Healthcare Law

October 23, 2019
 
The Thomas More Society's Peter Breen joins a group protesting the signing of the Reproductive Health Act in Chicago in June.

The Thomas More Society's Peter Breen joins a group protesting the signing of the Reproductive Health Act in Chicago in June.

Rebecca Anzel/Capitol News Illinois

An anti-abortion law firm is asking the federal government to block a portion of Illinois’ reproductive health law. They say it improperly forces people to pay for health insurance that covers abortions.

The Chicago-based Thomas More Society says Illinois law, known as the Reproductive Healthcare Act or RHA, now requires all new private insurance policies that cover pregnancy benefits to also cover abortions. Public health insurance options already cover the procedure.

The law firm says that violates a federal rule called the Weldon Amendment, which says states cannot discriminate against those who don’t want to support the procedure.

Executive Vice President Andrew Bath said even though his group opposes the RHA entirely, the complaint only focuses on insurance coverage.

“If federal law is enforced, it wouldn’t result in the RHA being stricken down," he explained. "They [the federal government] would insist that the state of Illinois not discriminate against health insurance plans that don’t cover elective surgical or chemical abortions.”

Bath believes that argument will find favor with the Trump administration.

“The previous administration was not enforcing the Weldon Amendment," he said. "We're optimistic that the current administration will enforce the law."

The complaint is before the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. There’s no guarantee the agency will even look at it, but when a similar complaint was filed earlier this year against California, the government ruled against the state.

The legal group’s complaint comes as Illinois’ neighboring states have passed more restrictions against abortion, and as U.S. Supreme Court justices agreed this month to hear a case that could further restrict the procedure nationwide.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D, Chicago), who sponsored Illinois’ reproductive health law, says the Thomas More Society’s complaint is “just a speed bump" and will not succeed. The law's Senate sponsor, state Sen. Melinda Bush (D, Grayslake), said she's not surprised by the Society's move.

"This is an ineffective attempt to deprive women of their reproductive rights," Bush said.

The ACLU of Illinois is also criticizing the Thomas More Society's move. Ameri Klafeta, who directs that group's efforts on reproductive healthcare rights, said there is "no grounds" for the Society's argument.

"The ability to access healthcare––and to pay for it––should not depend on the religious beliefs of one’s employer," Klafeta said.

Story source: Illinois Public Radio