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DC Bill Would Force Pro-Life Groups to Cover Elective Abortion in Health Insurance

DC Bill Would Force Pro-Life Groups to Cover Elective Abortion in Health Insurance

An anti-abortion protester holds a placard as protesters line the railing on the second floor of the rotunda of the State Capitol as the state Senate meets to consider legislation restricting abortion rights in Austin, Texas July 12, 2013. | (Photo: Reuters)

Pro-life groups have written to the City Council of the District of Columbia to protest a proposed bill that would violate federal law by forcing them to provide elective abortion coverage through their insurance plans as well as employ those who do not believe in their pro-life mission.

The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 (Bill 20-790) "would appear to prohibit employers in the District of Columbia from declining to hire any person or otherwise take any employment-related action concerning an employee because the individual had an abortion or makes any other 'reproductive health decision,'" says a letter sent to the Council by Alliance Defending Freedom and six other groups.

The chief aim of this bill is to force objecting employers to provide insurance coverage of all "reproductive health decisions," adds the letter, signed also by March for Life, Susan B. Anthony List, Charlotte Lozier Institute, Concerned Women for America, National Right to Life Committee and Family Research Council.

The bill clearly violates federal law in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings in Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, ADF said in a statement.

"Pro-life organizations must be free to operate according to the beliefs they espouse," said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox. "The government has no business forcing pro-life organizations to hire those who oppose their mission or to force any employer to pay for abortions. As the video of the committee hearing demonstrates, this is a cynical bill targeted at religious and other pro-life groups. It is illegal and doomed to defeat. The District should spare its taxpayers the expense of defending it."

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As shown in the video, D.C. Councilman David Grosso, the chief sponsor of the bill, introduced the bill's purpose by saying, "I believe that religions don't have to provide contraceptive coverage, which is too bad, but they don't have to, whereas nonprofits and other private entities do have to give this, what is considered now a healthcare right for all Americans."

"Just as a nonprofit organization supporting abortion might believe it necessary to ensure that its employees were not participating in the March for Life or other pro-life activism, or an organization advocating for veganism might believe its message cannot be effectively communicated by someone who eats meat, a pro-life organization must be free to choose to expend its resources to employ those whose words and actions uphold and do not detract from the organization's mission," the letter states.

Particularly in light of the Hobby Lobby decision, there is no prospect that this law would pass muster under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the letter states, warning that it will "waste taxpayer dollars, and could expose District employees to personal liability for enforcement of a clearly illegal law."

The Supreme Court has held that the federal mandate on for-profit religious employers, requiring them to provide coverage of items to which they have a religious objection, violates RFRA, the letter notes.

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