New York Religious Groups Sue Over Requirement to Provide Employee Abortion Coverage

Contract pdALBANY, N.Y. — Several religious entities have filed suit against the New York Department of Financial Services and seven insurance companies in the state over requirements that employee health care plans include abortion coverage.

First Bible Baptist Church in Rochester, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Albany, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg, the Albany Episcopal Diocese, Catholic Charities of the Brooklyn Diocese, and St. Gregory the Great Roman Catholic Church Society of Amherst have all joined the suit to challenge the state mandate.

“The plaintiffs must choose between violating their sincerely held religious and conscience beliefs regarding the moral impermissibility of abortion and violating their sincerely-held religious beliefs regarding the moral obligations of employers to provide a dignified livelihood, including fair, adequate and just employment benefits, to their employees, is serious and irrevocable,” the legal complaint reads.

“As a result of the clear and unequivocal religious moral teaching against abortion, the notion of a church institution providing its employees, regardless of their particular religious affiliation, with health insurance coverage for abortion, is morally unacceptable as a matter of religious and moral conviction,” it says.

The religious organizations assert that the Department of Financial Services had provided insurance companies with model language for coverage of both therapeutic and non-therapeutic abortions. They state that the inclusion of the coverage had not been disclosed to employers, but was rather “encrypted in health insurance contracts under the rubric of ‘medically necessary’ surgery.”

“The imposition of this undisclosed abortion mandate, without any prior public or contractual notice, result[ed] in plaintiffs unwittingly and currently providing and affirmatively funding objectionable abortion coverage by the payment of premiums and co-pays contrary to their sincerely held moral and religious beliefs,” the complaint outlines.

The groups not only state that the mandate violates their religious liberty and freedom of conscience, but also that the Department lacked the authority to institute the requirement. No law or regulation had been passed requiring the coverage.

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The suit was filed on May 4 in the New York State Supreme Court. Defendants in the case include Capital District Physicians Health Plan, Blue Shield of Northeastern New York, UnitedHealthcare of New York, MVP Health Care, Excellus Health Plan, and the Independent Health Association.

The Department of Financial Services has not yet commented on the legal challenge, other than stating that it is reviewing the filed complaint.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court sent litigation surrounding the Obamacare abortion pill mandate, filed by the “Little Sisters of the Poor” and other religious organizations, back to the lower courts after failing to reach a majority opinion in the matter.

“Thankfully, even with a 4-4 court, we got some good news from the Supreme Court yesterday when it sent them packing and sent the case back to the lower courts. Thank God that has happened,” House Speak Paul Ryan told reporters on Tuesday. “Clearly the court does not believe that the government has done a good enough job protecting religious liberty. That much is clear.”

Some were disappointed, however, with the 4-4 outcome.

“Just sending it to the lower courts and saying, ‘figure it out,’ that doesn’t sound like a responsible action by the Supreme Court of the United States,” opined Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-AL.

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