WASHINGTON, D.C., October 1, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An Obama administration decision to force taxpayers to finance insurance plans that cover abortion for Congressional staffers violates the law and could provoke a lawsuit, prominent pro-life activists have said.
Congressional staffers will be able to use hefty taxpayer subsidies – ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 according to Fox News – to purchase insurance through the ObamaCare state health exchanges that covers elective abortions.
Taxpayer funds finance about 75 percent of staffers' premiums. But under a 1983 ordinance that is still in effect, such funds can in no way cover abortion except in the cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.
On Monday, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) ruled that Congressional staffers would not violate that law, because they would be using federal funds to purchase private health insurance.
OPM also promised that “no federal funds, including administrative funds, will be used to cover abortions or administer plans that cover abortions.”
Instead, staffers will pay for abortion out of their own pocket. “OPM can and will take appropriate administrative steps to ensure that the cost of any such coverage purchased by a member of Congress or a congressional staffer from a designated [exchange] is accounted for and paid by the individual rather than from the government contribution,” the ruling states.
But pro-life activists say this is an accounting gimmick that allows the most pro-abortion president in history to circumvent the plain terms of the law.
One of them is the author of the law in question, Rep. Christopher Smith, R-NJ.
Congressman Smith said pro-life conservatives oppose forcing taxpayers to finance the taking of innocent human life, and “the public is absolutely with us.” A large majority of respondents, 58 percent, said they oppose public funding of abortion in a poll conducted in April by The Polling Company.
He is considering filing a lawsuit to prevent the move.
If he sues, it will hardly be without warning. Smith was one of 84 Congressmen who wrote to Elaine Kaplan, acting director of OPM, in September to remind them to respect the law while they were deliberating earlier this month.
Attorneys for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a similar letter. “The president has repeatedly assured Congress and the American people that current restrictions on abortion funding would not be reversed, or weakened in their application, by ACA,” the bishops' attorneys wrote. “Such assurances played a major role in securing final passage of the bill, and were formalized in an executive order issued by the president.”
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Early last month the National Right to Life Committee said in a press release, “the Constitution does not confer on any president a retroactive, line-item veto, by which he may arbitrarily nullify specific provisions of duly enacted laws.”
After the final rule was promulgated yesterday, NRLC Senior Legislative Counsel Susan T. Muskett said, “The Constitution does not grant the President the authority to retroactively rewrite the laws.”
“In NRLC’s view, any OPM director who implements this White House-directed policy should face future prosecution under the Anti-Deficiency Act,” the group warned.
The George Soros-funded left-wing group Media Matters insists, by paying for only part of the premium, the Obama administration is working within the confines of the law. (Media Matters also has close ties to the president through Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker's wealthy family.)
Pro-lifers say that money is fungible, and the law is crystal clear in its prohibitions.
Muskett and NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson wrote, “the OPM itself is flatly prohibited by the Smith Amendment from collecting funds from any sources whatever and transmitting them to any vendor whatever, or engaging in any other administrative functions whatever, 'in connection with' any health plans of any type.”
“Those who dislike the policy that the Smith Amendment imposes, the president included, are free to urge Congress to repeal it,” they said in their own September letter to OPM.