Republicans call on Trump admin to stop abortion funding for congressional staff
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 14, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Nearly 100 pro-life members of Congress are calling on the Trump administration to stop subsidizing congressional health insurance plans that cover abortion, a practice supposed to be forbidden under federal law.
The 1984 Smith Amendment bars federal funds from being used to “pay for an abortion, or the administrative expenses in connection with any health plan under the Federal employees health benefits program which provides any benefits or coverage for abortions,” except in cases of rape, incest, or to save a mother’s life.
However, a letter to Margaret Weichert, acting director of the White House Office of Personnel Management (OPM), signed by 77 House members and 17 senators, calls out a determination OPM made under former President Barack Obama to contribute to Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) exchange plans even if they cover elective abortions.
“In plan year 2019, 87% of the Gold level plans on the DC SHOP covered elective abortion. Only 9 out of 67 plans excluded such coverage,” the letter says. “OPM claims that these abortion subsidies are allowed by attributing the segregated costs of the elective abortion coverage and associated administrative expenses to the individual’s contribution, rather than the taxpayers’ contribution. OPM’s use of this accounting gimmick to grant abortion subsidies to Congress is not provided for under Section 1303 of the ACA, and is blatantly illegal under the Smith Amendment’s strict requirement for a complete exclusion of elective abortion coverage for federal employees.”
“Taxpayers, who pay 72 to 75 percent of these health benefit premiums, do not want their hard-earned tax dollars to pay for abortions,” the letter continues. “The Smith Amendment does not allow Members of Congress and Congressional staff to operate under a different set of rules than other federal employees when it comes to taxpayer funding of abortion.”
The signatories include Reps. Chris Smith, Liz Cheney, and Mo Brooks, and Sens. Steve Daines, Marsha Blackburn, and Tom Cotton. They call on OPM to take “swift action” to disqualify “any DC SHOP [District of Columbia’s Small Business Health Options Program] plan which covers elective abortion” by the start of plan year 2020.
The Trump administration has taken various actions to combat taxpayer funding of abortion by cutting both Planned Parenthood subsidies and Obamacare mandates, though federal judges have stood in the way of both. While pleased by these efforts, pro-lifers have also faulted the administration for not taking stronger, quicker action on more subtle abortion-funding controversies, such as congressional health plans and continued research involving tissue from aborted babies.