By Illinois Radio Network
SPRINGFIELD – President Donald Trump’s administration could nullify a part of Illinois’ new law expanding access to abortion procedures.
The Thomas More Society, an anti-abortion group, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights on Oct. 21. In it, the group claimed the state’s Reproductive Health Act violates a provision called the Weldon Amendment and Affordable Care Act.
“The new Illinois law requires health insurance policies to cover elective chemical and surgical abortions. According to the complaint, this mandate — which compels businesses and individuals to pay for even late-term abortion coverage and offers no religious exemptions — violates the federal Weldon Amendment and Affordable Care Act,” it said in a news release.
The complaint was filed on the nonprofit’s behalf and for Dr. Richard Mantoan, a Flossmoor dentist who objects to being forced to offer abortion services via the insurance plan offered to his employees.
The targeted part of the RHA, which requires policies that offer pregnancy coverage to also offer abortion services, is what could be stricken. Other parts of the law, including making state Medicaid funds available for abortion as well as state insurance policies covering the procedure, would likely remain.
“The last administration was not enforcing the Weldon Amendment,” Thomas More Society Vice President and General Counsel Andrew Bath said. “We have a new sheriff now and I expect that will change.”
In January, the Office for Civil Rights ruled that the state of California violated the Weldon Amendment when it threatened a number of health centers with fines and reduced funding because the clinics refused to post notices referring to abortion.
Abortion advocates said the complaint seeks to use Trump’s administration to restrict women’s healthcare rights.
“Once again exhibiting their complete disconnect from reality and the truth, the Thomas More Society has found a special ally in their efforts to limit access to reproductive health care in Illinois – the Trump Administration,” said state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, the Chicago Democrat who sponsored the bill. “Having been soundly defeated in the legislature – even after engaging in misrepresentations and exaggerations about the impact of the RHA, it was inevitable that they would turn to their friends in the Trump-Pence administration, still using the tired lies we rejected this session.”
Planned Parenthood of Illinois responded to the complaint. It said everyone should have coverage for a full range of reproductive health options, including abortion with access to safe medical care.
“The Thomas More Society’s complaint against the Reproductive Health Act is the latest tactic in an ongoing campaign to end access to safe and legal abortion,” spokeswoman Paula Thornton Greear said. “The Thomas Moore Society couldn’t stop the Reproductive Health Act in the state legislature, so they are desperately turning to the Trump Administration for help in cutting off access to abortion in Illinois.”
The Office for Civil Rights will next decide whether or not to pursue an investigation.
Illinois Radio Network can be reached at News@WJBC.com.