Category archives: Health Care

DC Council votes in support of forcing abortion coverage

by Travis Weber

December 18, 2014

Yesterday, the DC Council passed a bill called the “Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act of 2014,” which could force employers in the District of Columbia (including the Family Research Council) to cover abortions.

The actual language of the bill would prevent employers from “discriminat[ing] against” an individual with respect to the “compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment” because of an individual’s “reproductive health decisions.” The definition of “reproductive health decisions” includes but is not limited to “a decision by an employee … related to the use or intended use of … contraception or fertility control or the planned or intended initiation or termination of a pregnancy.” In plain terms, no employer would be able to say they don’t want to cover an abortion.

There is no exemption in the bill for any employer who might object to such coverage. This would have drastic consequences for a number of employers and organizations in the District who not only might object to such coverage on conscience grounds, but whose actual purpose for existing is to stop abortion because they believe it is a moral evil. This is the essence of a Freedom of Association violation – disrupting the very purpose of autonomous, private groups through legislative bulldozing tactics, thus rendering the groups’ existence meaningless.

Aside from this injustice, there are a number of legal problems with the bill. As pointed out by Alliance Defending Freedom, the bill would violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Weldon Amendment, and the First Amendment protections of Free Speech, Free Exercise, and Freedom of Association.

Even the mayor’s office recognized the legal problems with the bill. Yet, more interested in ramming its policies down every District employer’s throat, the DC Council went ahead and passed the bill in defiance of the mayor’s concerns. One of the mayor’s concerns was a potential Equal Protection violation because the bill only addressed protections for women. In response, the Council reportedly added protections for men as well. That the Council would make this correction, and leave other groups who expressed religious and associational concerns hanging out to dry, only confirms the devious nature of the DC Council.

If following one’s conscience is to retain any meaning at all for those living and working in the District, the mayor absolutely must veto this bill!

Sketchy Judicial Assignments in Ninth Circuit Marriage Cases

by Chris Gacek

November 14, 2014

The American people are justified in wondering if they are ruled by interlocking ruling bodies that operate in secret, govern with unbridled duplicity, and are immune to correction by the People acting through their representatives or acting directly in referenda. There have been many prominent examples in the last two months. Two involve our imperious judicial oligarchy.

But, first we have the recent reports of repeated statements by Obamacare insider and MIT economist, Jonathan Gruber, calling the American people “stupid” and boasting that Obamacare was foisted on the public through a determined campaign of lying and deviousness. Lies on top of lies on top of lies.

Second, in early October the U.S. Supreme Court appeared to act with stunning cynicism when it dismissed requests for review of marriage-definition cases arising out of several federal appellate courts. The Court had heard an identical case when it reviewed the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 less than two years ago. However, the Prop 8 case was dismissed because the plaintiffs, the proponents of Prop 8, were deemed to lack “standing” to sue. This conclusion was reached because California’s Attorney General took a dive in the litigation and refused to defend a ballot-approved amendment to the California constitution. (Prop 8 was supported by a 52% majority in November 2008.)

The October 2014 cases petitions to the Supreme Court checked all the boxes for standing, but the cases were still turned away allowing lower court rulings that struck down male-female marriage to stay in place. It appeared the that Supreme Court was taking the coward’s way out by allowing lower courts to redefine marriage in America without publicly putting forward a majority opinion explaining how the male-female definition of marriage could violate any constitutional principle. This Court, it appeared, didn’t even have the integrity to write its own Roe v. Wade for marriage. On November 6th the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit supported the traditional marriage definition. Now that there is a split among the circuit courts, the Supreme Court’s stealth imposition strategy won’t work – if that is what they were doing. Now the nation is left with an incoherent stew of constitutional slop consisting of incongruent reasoning and standards. The reputation of the Supreme Court is being badly damaged each day this continues.

Well, if you were to think that the reputation of our black robed masterminds couldn’t get much worse, think again. In October 2014 a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision striking down the male-female marriage regime established be the voters of Nevada and Idaho. (The court reversed an excellent Nevada opinion that had supported traditional marriage.) In mid-October, a private group in Nevada, the Coalition for Protection of Marriage, filed a petition and a supporting affidavit with supporting statistical analysis with the full Ninth Circuit purporting to demonstrate that the panels in cases on homosexual-related issues were not being assigned randomly. In fact, they claimed that two of the court’s most liberal members (Stephen Reinhardt and Marsha S. Berzon) were greatly overrepresented in such cases. Here is how the Coalition for Protection of Marriage summarized its claim of bias in panel selection:

The attached statistical analysis … explains that since January 1, 2010, Judge Berzon has been on the merits panel in five and Judge Reinhardt has been on the merits panel in four of the eleven Ninth Circuit cases involving the federal constitutional rights of gay men and lesbians (“Relevant Cases”), far more than any other judge and far more than can reasonably be accounted for by a neutral assignment process. Indeed, statistical analysis demonstrates that the improbability of such occurring randomly is not just significant but overwhelming. Thus, the odds are 441-to-1 against what we observe with the Relevant Cases—the two most assigned judges receiving under a neutral assignment process five and four assignments respectively (and anything more extreme). (Petition, 3-4.)

If assessed accurately, this assignment pattern was not random. The case assignment was rigged to help assure the politically desired outcome.

It goes without saying that this is an extremely serious accusation that needs investigation not just by some handpicked Ninth Circuit lackey but by the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and by the new Senate Judiciary Committee to be chaired by Senator Grassley.

Public Confidence in CDC Drops

by Robert Morrison

October 22, 2014

Now public esteem for the long-respected Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has plummeted with the arrival of Ebola on American shores. A new CBS News poll found that only 37 percent of Americans thought the centers were doing a good job, down from 60 percent last year. In fact, of nine agencies tested, seven that were judged highly by a majority of Americans last year have now fallen below 50 percent.

I have had my own concerns for decades about CDC. When I was a young appointee in the federal education department under President Reagan, I was assigned to the mournful task of researching suicide among youth. Among other troubling things I learned was that, following the quiet repeal of laws against suicide by all the states, the suicide rate among young Americans tripled.

In the course of my research, I had a briefing book sent to me by CDC. It had the demographic tables for suicide among every group in America—from Ashkenazi Jews (very low) to Zuni Indians (tragically high).One statistic had me scratching my head. I called CDC in Atlanta to ask if numbers for the suicide rate among Black women could possibly be correct. They were near zero! “Well, yes, we’ve noticed that stat, too,” said the CDC staffer on the other end of the phone line, “We call it the BFPF—Black Female Protection Factor.” What is that, I asked. “They’re very religious,” came the reply.

CDC knows this, but they don’tadvertise this? I remembered the Public Service Announcement from TV from the 1950s—”The family that prays together stays together.”

Family Research Council’s respected MARRI—Marriage and Religion Research Institute—is now the best source to show (with incontrovertible evidence) the importance of marriage and faith in our families’ well-being.

Of course, the scales had already fallen from my eyes about CDC. I knew that they had employed Willard Cates there. In 1980, Cates was doing “abortion surveillance” for this federally-funded agency. He advised abortionists to charge fees based on the size of the foot of the unborn child whom they had killed. Even now, thirty-fouryearslater, that reality still send chills down my spine.

Article from The New York Times

California Mandates that 2 Catholic Universities Include Abortion Coverage in their Employee Health Insurance Plans

by Jonathan Abbamonte

September 22, 2014

Imagine that as president of a private institution you receive a letter from your state government detailing that your health insurance plan must include coverage for elective abortion procedures. Imagine that despite your pleas for personal objections on religious or moral grounds that the state has “carefully considered all relevant aspects of state and federal law in reaching its position… that health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally” and thus your plan must include the “required abortion coverage.”

Unfortunately, this scenario is not imaginary. Recently, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF) filed a complaint with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concerning the state of California’s mandate requiring two Catholic universities to provide health insurance to their employees, insurance that HHS says must cover elective abortion. California Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration had announced just a month ago that it was withdrawing its abortion exemption from Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount University, and thereby any other religious non-profit or business that does not fit California’s razor thin definition of what qualifies a “religious employer.” Apparently a university run by the Jesuits, a religious order of the Roman Catholic Church, is not “religious” enough. As reported by California Lawyer the President of Santa Clara University, Michael Engh, in a letter to the university faculty communicated that “Santa Clara University cannot be true to its Jesuit Catholic identity and willingly offer, through its health care programs, financial support… [for] abortion that is not medically necessary.”

On August 22nd Shelley Rouillard director of California’s Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) informed the universities through their insurance providers that they would no longer be exempt from providing abortion coverage through their employee health insurance programs. DMHC points to the Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act of 1975 which they say “requires health plans to cover abortion as a basic health care service.”

That is not the opinion of Catherine W. Short, an attorney and legal director of Life Legal Defense Foundation.  According to Short, as reported in California Lawyer, “Knox-Keene does not require coverage for abortion. Knox-Keene says nothing about abortion.” While it is true that California’s Constitution guarantees the “right” for a woman to choose to abort her child, it says nothing about forcing institutions or individuals from being complicit in anyone’s choice to have an abortion. In fact, federal law seems to dictate otherwise.  The state of California receives billions of dollars in federal subsidies for education, health and employment every year.  These appropriations are bound by the Weldon Amendment which prohibits the use of federal funds from discriminating against any institution which opposes abortion coverage. There is little doubt that DMHC is bound by the Weldon Amendment, ADF and LLDF argue, as indicated by the State of California’s failed attempt to circumvent the amendment through its lawsuit against the U.S. government.

The decision by the DMHC to single out Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount universities is perplexing given that even employees of the State of California are exempt from having to pay for abortion services in their employee health plans according to the Cardinal Newman Society, which has been reporting on the case and which joined in a letter issued by ADF and LLDF to the DMHC.

Sadly, this is not the first time that the state of California has attempted to abridge religious liberty in the name of “reproductive rights” and universal access to abortion and contraception. In 2004, the Supreme Court of the State of California ruled in Catholic Charities of Sacramento, Inc. v Superior Court of Sacramento County that the Women’s Contraception Equity Act (WCEA) does not violate religious liberty. The Act stipulates that any entity not considered a “religious employer” must provide health insurance that includes contraceptive coverage.

The definition of what qualifies as a “religious employer” in WCEA is so narrow that Catholic Charities, an explicitly faith based charity organization focused on combating poverty and serving over nine million Americans per year, did not qualify. As a result, the State of California was able to succeed in silencing the religious objections of Catholic Charities.

They have succeeded once. They have succeeded again by forcing Santa Clara and Loyola, and all religious non-profits in California, to provide elective abortion coverage, despite religious objections. It is time we realize that religious liberty in America is under attack. 

Healthcare Plans Are Not Returnable

by Emily Minick

September 18, 2014

Healthcare is unique among many of the products we commonly purchase in that it is non-returnable.  Healthcare is only available for purchase once a year during “Open Enrollment”, unless one has a qualifying life event. Once you enroll in a healthcare plan, while you can drop your coverage anytime over the course of the year, you cannot enroll in another plan until next open season.

Why is this significant? Well, if you have to purchase healthcare on the ObamaCare exchanges, you are unable to find out due to a secrecy clause in the law whether that particular plan covers elective abortion until after you already enroll and pay. Essentially you have to purchase a plan in order to find out what is in it. A newly released Government Accountability Office (GAO), a non-partisan government watchdog, confirmed in a groundbreaking report this week that there is a lack of transparency regarding abortion coverage in ObamaCare, with 11 out of 18 issuers not informing individuals about elective abortion coverage until after they already enroll in a particular plan.

Let’s say someone finds a plan on their respective state exchange and they enroll and they find out after that the plan includes elective abortion coverage. That individual can either a) drop coverage entirely and unless they have a qualifying life event and go without coverage for the remainder of the plan year, and more than likely be subject to the individual mandate penalty or b) violate their conscience and pay for elective abortion coverage through the abortion surcharge, which is a slush fund used to finance other people’s abortions.

Either way, these are both non-options.

Purchasing a healthcare plan before you are able to find out what is in it is completely unacceptable. Additionally, the long-standing Hyde Amendment to the Labor Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill (LHHS) strictly prohibits federal funding for abortion yet. GAO confirmed in their report, however, that Obamacare subsidizes elective abortion coverage on the exchanges with taxpayer dollars. ObamaCare therefore bypasses the principles of the Hyde Amendment.

We were told that ObamaCare would not subsidize elective abortion with taxpayer funds. I guess we can add this to the long laundry list of ways the Administration has broken their promise when it comes to ObamaCare next to individuals losing their plans, premiums increasing, limited choices and budget busting price tags.

Notre Dame and Standing on Principle

by Family Research Council

September 8, 2014

It is a sad day for Catholic education when a Catholic institution of higher learning ignores core doctrine. It is worse yet when it happens to be the leading Catholic institution of higher learning. Recently The National Catholic Register reported that the University of Notre Dame voluntarily offered a student health insurance program that pays for the contraception and abortion services required by the HHS mandate. In essence, the University has thrown in the towel in its fight against the mandate’s encroachment on religious liberty. This move is particularly strange given the University’s pending lawsuit against the federal government.

In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a mandate derivative of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires all employers to provide, free of charge, a number of contraceptives and abortifacient drugs to their employees. On May 21, 2012 the University of Notre Dame filed an official legal complaint against the federal government because funding contraception and abortifacients is contrary to the school’s identity as a Catholic institution. Since then, all requests for an injunction on the mandate have failed. The HHS has made eight revisions to the initial contraceptive mandate all of which have been summarily rejected by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The revisions fail to address underlying religious liberty conflicts in the ACA. Although Notre Dame’s lawsuit is still pending, the University has decided, nonetheless, to comply with the mandate of its own accord.

Catholic doctrine expressly forbids the intentional use of contraception or abortion:

Every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil (CCC 2370).”

and again

Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law…Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense (CCC 2271-2272).”

Whether Notre Dame or any other Catholic university ignores this teaching is no indication of a change in Church doctrine. This violation of Church doctrine is yet another illustration of the collapse of doctrinally sound Catholic education. Notre Dame is following in the footsteps of many other Catholic institutions which have acted contrary to Church teaching. One does not have to look far for examples of this. St. John’s University recently slated Hugh Evans, a strong contraception advocate, to receive an honorary law degree at commencement. Loyola Marymount University earlier this year named Dr. Robbin Crabtree (who previously served on Advisory Board and Media Relations Committee of Planned Parenthood) dean of the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts. The University of San Diego’s drag show created such shockwaves within the Church that the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education called them out on it saying the event caused “scandal.” Purportedly Catholic universities acting contrary to the Magisterium is so widespread that Pope John Paul II years ago issued an apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae to remind Catholic universities of their identity, mission, and general norms.

As education goes, so goes the next generation. The Church and all its members have the right and the duty to pass the time-tested teachings and traditions on to next generation. Let us work to promote Catholic institutions of higher learning grounded in sound Church doctrine and morals.

(Ex)change We Can Believe In?

by Arina Grossu

September 8, 2014

Open enrollment for ObamaCare is right around the corner. With a November 15th start date, Americans deserve to know whether the plans they’re considering on the insurance exchanges cover elective abortion and if so, how much they’re paying for the abortion coverage, and how the abortion surcharge will be billed.

FRC wrote about this debacle in the past with regard to the exchanges and plans offered in D.C. and Maryland. We discovered that it was very difficult to obtain accurate information. Finding a pro-life plan should not be this daunting. Our investigation has revealed that insurance representatives on exchanges in various states have given information that is inaccurate and inconsistent. For example, in Colorado, representatives from ColoradoHealthOp have suggested that some of their plans cover elective abortions, while their online plan resources for those same plans clearly state that they do not cover elective abortion.

In another instance, two different representatives from Humana vouched that none of their plans cover elective abortion, but according to the plan details, they all do. Many states don’t even provide plan information on their websites. Some representatives from Sharp Health Plan in California and Group Health in Washington, have told us that they could not answer questions since we were not members, but how is one to make a decision about becoming a member before knowing the plan details?

Even when plan details are written out, it is not often clear if the plans cover elective abortions. Written plan details such as “interruption of pregnancy,” “pregnancy termination included,” or “abortion services” do not specify if that’s in reference to elective abortions. Such was the case with various companies in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

When asked specifically the ObamaCare abortion surcharge, which requires a person who signs up for a plan that covers elective abortions to pay at least $12 per year, representatives either had no idea about it, told us about deductible costs, or one even referred us to Planned Parenthood to see how much they charge for an abortion. Finding accurate information has proven to be nearly impossible. Congress must pass Rep. Chris Smith’s (R-N.J.) Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2013 to ensure that Americans get clear answers about abortion coverage when they purchase healthcare plans on the ObamaCare exchanges.

** You can read more about this in Arina Grossu’s op-ed, which appeared on National Review Online.

Court Delivers another Blow to Obamacare

by Emily Minick

July 22, 2014

Earlier this month the Supreme Court ruled that the Obama Administration could not force family businesses, like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, to violate their conscience in order to earn a living.

Another blow to Obamacare was delivered by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals today in a 2-1 decision, Halbig v. Burwell, affirming that the Administration has to follow their own law, as written and can’t either make it up or change it as they go along. The court ruled that federal subsidies to assist individuals in purchasing insurance are only available to those who purchase healthcare through an exchange created by their state, not a federally created exchange in a state. The Affordable Care Act text is extremely clear, only individuals who live in states that have set up their own healthcare exchange are eligible to receive income subsidies to assist in lowering the cost of purchasing healthcare.

The problem is many states did not set up their own exchange for a variety of reasons, including the cost of developing and running an exchange, and in some cases because they disagreed with the principle of Obamacare in general. Even some states that did originally decide to set up a state exchange, like Oregon, later dissolved it due to high cost and joined the federal healthcare.gov exchange. This year, 36 states decided to forgo developing and creating their own state exchange and instead opted to have the government create an exchange to operate in their state. Recent news reports also say that Massachusetts, if their exchange is not working properly in time for upcoming 2015 enrollment this fall, will plan on joining the federal exchange in their state.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows for this possibility and says the federal government will create an exchange in the state if the state doesn’t. The issue is the ACA doesn’t say that money can go to the federally created exchange in those states. The Administration funded subsidies in these states anyway and thus the lawsuit with the option delivered today. Individuals in these 36 states who needed to purchase healthcare, if not provided by their employer, looked to the federally created exchanges to satisfy the individual mandate requirement. A recent study by HHS found that 87 percent of individuals who purchased healthcare on the federally created exchange were eligible to receive an income subsidy.

Now, this ruling could derail the entire Obamacare train.

  1. Plans on the healthcare exchanges were not as cheap as individuals originally thought they would be. Between high deductibles, high monthly premium costs, and lack of participating providers in certain designated areas, people did receive a sticker shock when they shopped on the marketplace last year. Now, if this ruling stands, individuals will not have the luxury of having the high cost of premiums masked by income subsidies if their state did not set up their own exchange.
  2. Assuming that no other states back out of operating their own exchange this upcoming plan year, individuals in 36 states will have to cover the entire cost of healthcare premiums on their own. This could result in thousands of individuals opting to pay the tax penalty rather than pay for the high cost of many of these exchange plans. If less people purchase healthcare, especially young people, there will be less healthy people in the pool, which could raise rates even more because healthcare insurance companies will have to compensate for the cost of covering pre-existing conditions.
  3. If there is one thing that Americans should realize about Obamacare by now, it’s that the executive branch does not have the power to write the law, enforce the law and interpret the law however it sees fit. The executive is in charge of faithfully executing the law. To date there have been 42 changes to Obamacare. Today’s ruling affirms that the President cannot change a law just because it is unpopular.

What does this ruling mean for average Americans? The ruling in Halbig v. Burwell affirms that the President cannot pick and choose what parts of the law he wants to follow. This ruling also illustrates to the American people that Obamacare really is as bad as Republicans said it would be. The Administration cannot mask high premiums, failed state exchanges, broken websites, and unenforced provisions with income subsides to those prohibited from receiving them according to the text of the Affordable Care Act.

Democratic Bill to Override Hobby Lobby Ruling Fails

by Arina Grossu

July 16, 2014

A bill introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), the “Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act” to override the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby ruling failed to get cloture in the Senate today. The Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell that family business owners do not have to violate their consciences in order to earn a living by providing drugs and services to their employees in their healthcare plan, to which they morally object.

This bill seeks to overturn what the Supreme Court ruled earlier this month, and would force family business owners to provide their employees in their healthcare plan drugs and devices that have the potential to kill an unborn child even if they may have moral objections, and despite the protections afforded to them by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). It failed to get the sixty votes that were needed to move the bill forward, coming up short at 56-43 votes. We are thankful to the Senators who voted against cloture on this bill, thus protecting the religious freedom of all family businesses.

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