State Abortion Mandate Challenged

On May 4, a lawsuit was filed in state court to challenge abortion mandates decreed by the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS).

Effective January 1, 2016, the DFS is mandating that all health insurers operating in New York require small group employers (employers with fewer than 100 full-time employees) to provide medical coverage for so-called “therapeutic” abortions and “non-therapeutic” abortions.

“Therapeutic” abortions are generally defined as abortions induced because of a mother’s physical or mental health, or to prevent the birth of a “deformed” child or a child conceived as a result of rape or incest (Stedman’s Medical Dictionary). “Non-therapeutic” abortions are abortions not performed for so-called medical reasons. The State will allow churches and other religious organizations to request and obtain a partial exemption from the requirement that they cover “non-therapeutic” abortions; however, such organizations have not been exempted from the requirement of covering “therapeutic” abortions.

Furthermore, the new mandate requires other small group employers that provide employee medical coverage—including faith-based nonprofits and Christian businesses—to cover all kinds of abortions with no exemption whatsoever.

Separately, the DFS has revealed that it has been imposing a hidden abortion mandate upon New York employers. The DFS takes the view that prior to 2016, existing medical insurance policies already included coverage for “therapeutic” abortions. While this coverage was never specifically stated, the DFS views “therapeutic” abortions as insured procedures under the category of “medically necessary” surgery. This means that the State has been requiring both small group employers and large group employers to cover “therapeutic” abortions without informing those employers of this requirement. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany is one of 13 plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which also includes Episcopalians, Baptists, Lutherans, a nursing company and a general contractor in Plattsburgh.

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms strongly supports the filing of this lawsuit. It is unacceptable for any person—or any church, nonprofit organization, or business—to be compelled to provide funding for abortion coverage.