In Vermont, a man has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Department of Vermont Health Access after they forced him to choose between his pro-life beliefs and insurance coverage. The plaintiff, Alan Lyle Howe, says the state offered heath plans force him to include a fee for abortion coverage even though he is against abortion and will never obtain one. Vermont, along with Rhode Island, New Jersey, Hawaii, don’t allow citizens to opt out of coverage for elective abortion in Obamacare.
Howe refused to enroll and instead filed suit because he believes paying the fee would undermine his public opposition to abortion. His lawyer, Casey Mattox, said, “We’re putting together legal arguments and we’ll be filing, we expect, in a week. When government is imposing burdens like that on people … that’s a violation of free exercise, and that’s essentially what’s happening here.” She added that she and her clients were working “in good faith” with all other parties to work toward an outcome other than litigation.
Additionally, Howe’s lawyers are asking for a solution for Howe and others like him who would be abandoning their beliefs to obtain health care. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), in September 2014, 15 states offered some health insurance options without the elective abortion payment, and eight other states offer plans that do not cover elective abortions.
As LifeNews previously reported, in 2010 President Obama promised the American people that the Obamacare bill maintained the Hyde Amendment, which ensured that no public funding went to abortion. However, last year the GAO found that taxpayers are funding over a thousand Obamacare health plans that subsidize abortion on demand—even late-term abortion—in defiance of the Hyde Amendment Obama publicly said he would honor.
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Here’s more on Howe’s case:
Howe will be subject to a fine of at least 2 percent of his income in 2015 because he failed to enroll in a qualified health plan prior to Feb. 15. Certain religions are exempt from the Affordable Care Act, but they are principally Amish or denominations similar to the Amish, Mattox said.
“For those folks, they don’t have to pay any penalty under the individual mandate, because they object to health insurance altogether,” Mattox said. “Howe’s objection is much more specific and much smaller.”
As of Monday, Howe has not received an exemption from the fine, even though his lawyers asked the court in January for relief during the court proceedings. Lawyers for the defendants are expected to respond to this request by Friday.
Howe alleges the defendants are violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Vermont Constitution, and the free exercise and free speech clauses of the First Amendment by requiring him to pay for elective abortions, court papers state.
Settlement talks have begun, though Mattox and lawyers for the defendants have declined to discuss details. Mattox said he hopes a settlement is reached soon, because Howe is without health insurance.
Howe and his lawyers are seeking relief for Howe from penalties for not enrolling in health care; requirements forbidding issuers and exchange employees from providing information about abortion coverage and money allocated to pay for abortions; attorney fees and expert costs; and other relief.
“In the long run, Vermont is going to be required to fix this problem,” Mattox said. “What we’re asking for is at least in the immediate term, they fix it for him, and frankly if they could go ahead and fix it for everyone so people aren’t left in this position.”