The Obama administration has confirmed it will break current federal law to pay for abortions for members of Congress and Congressional staff via Obamacare.
Leading pro-life groups and pro-life members of Congress have been concerned that the Office of Personnel Management will not comply with the Smith Amendment that bans taxpayer-funding of abortions in federal employee health care plans. Under the amendment, which is existing law, federal funds may not be used to pay for abortions via federally-funded health insurance for congressional staff and Members.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has released a final rule regarding management of health insurance benefits for members of Congress and Congressional staff who will be entering the exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The final rule indicates that OPM does not intend to comply with the pro-life Smith amendment as it administers health insurance benefits for this group of federal employees.
Some 84 Members of Congress sent a letter to OPM Acting Director Elaine Kaplan earlier this month. The letter pointed out that the Smith amendment (first offered in 1983 by Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ) is annually attached to the Financial Services Appropriations bill and governs activities by OPM employees. Specifically the Smith amendment states that no funds may be used to “pay for an abortion, or the administrative expenses in connection with any health plan under the Federal employees health benefits program which provides any benefits or coverage for abortions.”
The Member letter specifies that collecting and disburses premiums for health plans that include elective abortion are administrative activities and would constitute a clear violation of the Smith amendment. While all insurance plans for Federal employees under the FEHBP exclude elective abortion, the Obamacare law deviated from this longstanding policy and explicitly allowed plans on the new health care exchanges to include coverage for all abortion.
In the final rule, OPM specifies that, despite the Smith amendment, the Obama administration will carry out administrative tasks in conjunction with health plans that include elective abortion.
They justify such action by saying that OPM does not “administer the terms of the health benefits plans offered on an Exchange.” Even though the Smith amendment is in no way limited to administration of the “terms” of a plan, OPM appears to be arbitrarily narrowing the Smith amendment without Congressional approval to do so.
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The portion of the rule related to the Obama administration breaking federal law reads:
Current law prohibits the use of Federal funds to pay for abortions, except in the case of rape, incest, or when the life of the woman is endangered, and the Smith Amendment in particular makes no funds available “to pay for abortions or administrative expenses in connections with health plans under the FEHBP which provides any benefits or coverage for abortions.” Neither the proposed nor final regulation alters these prohibitions. Under OPM’s final rule, no Federal funds, including administrative funds, will be used to cover abortions or administer plans that cover abortions. Unlike the health plans for which OPM contracts pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 8902, 8903 and 8903a, OPM does not administer the terms of the health benefits plans offered on an Exchange. Consequently, while plans with such coverage may be offered on an Exchange, 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 SHOP is accounted for and paid by the individual rather than from the Government contribution, consistent with the general prohibition on Federal funds being used for this purpose.
The National Right to Life Committee previously suggested it was concerned the Obama administration would break the law.