When the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week on the constitutionality of various provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, one of the most blatantly unconstitutional provisions didn't get any attention in oral arguments or the press. At least it hasn't so far. The issue in question is the abortion premium mandate. Beginning in 2014, this mandate will force millions of Americans, including those who are pro-life, to pay directly into an abortion fund. How does this work? This illustration paints the picture:
You have just accepted a new job. You're thrilled to find out that your employer will heavily subsidize health insurance for you and your family, and that the plan he offers includes many excellent health care providers in your area. In fact, a member of your family has a special medical need, and the doctor in your town who is best able to care for her participates in your new plan's network.
However, as you peruse information on your new plan upon enrollment, you stumble upon a startling fact. In the fine print, you read that you will be paying two premiums for your insurance and that one premium will be used solely for abortions. You do not want abortion coverage - in fact, abortion is against your beliefs.
You promptly mention this to your employer, and he is surprised. He did not know that the plan he selected for his employees - from your state's health insurance exchange established by Obamacare - requires an abortion premium payment. After all, the abortion premium was not mentioned in any of the information provided to him about the plan. However, he does not want to shop for another plan. Even if he does, he may select another plan that covers abortions, given that he did not know about the abortion coverage the first time around.
You ask if you can be exempted from the abortion premium payment.
The answer? No.
So, what do you do? To buy health insurance on your own would be prohibitively expensive, and your employer's plan provides excellent care that your family needs. But you are now going to be paying directly into an abortion fund for other enrollees. If you choose to forgo health insurance coverage, you will be fined by the government under Obamacare.
Sound too ridiculous to be possible? Incredibly, this is exactly how the abortion premium mandate will work. Insurance plans that cover abortions may participate in state exchanges and receive federal subsidies. To maintain the illusion that this arrangement does not amount to taxpayer subsidization of abortion, the law's authors devised a scheme in which individuals enrolled in these plans must pay a separate premium that solely pays for abortions (i.e., because the government subsidies cannot directly pay for abortions). The law does not provide a means for individuals to opt-out of paying the abortion premium, and it prohibits plans from advertising that an abortion premium is required under their plan. As demonstrated in the illustration above, it will not be easy - and will often be impossible - for individuals to choose a different plan once they learn about the premium upon enrollment.
The abortion premium mandate, particularly when paired with the forced purchase of insurance required by Obamacare's individual mandate, directly violates the conscience and free exercise rights of millions of Americans by imposing an unconstitutional burden on them within the private insurance marketplace. Americans United for Life joined lead counsel, Bioethics Defense Fund and other pro-life organizations in submitting an amicuscuriae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the abortion premium mandate's constitutionality.
No American should be forced by the government to pay for abortions. We have entered a new realm of compelled abortion funding - even beyond taxpayer funding for abortions. It is time for the Supreme Court to stand up for Americans' free exercise right to object to paying for abortions - and affirm that the exercise of that right should not result in a government penalty or lesser-quality insurance coverage.
Mary Harned is staff counsel for Americans United for Life.
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