The head of a right-to-life group and his wife have filed what’s being billed as a groundbreaking federal lawsuit in Connecticut, challenging the health care options available in the state under the Affordable Care Act.
Barth and Abby Bracy state that all of the plans available in Connecticut provide coverage for elective abortions, and that requiring them to pay premiums that help cover “other people’s abortions” violates their constitutional rights pertaining to religious freedom.
The lawsuit also challenges the so-called “secrecy clauses” that prohibit insurers on state health care exchanges from divulging whether their policies cover abortion and what portion of the premiums collected from health care plan enrollees go toward paying for elective abortions.
“Through the Affordable Care Act, the government has required the Bracys to purchase a certain type of government-approved health insurance or pay burdensome fines for their refusal,” according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court. “[T]he Bracys must also pay a separate fee to be used solely to pay for elective abortions for others. The Bracys are devout Catholics; Barth Bracy is an ordained deacon and a former missionary. The Bracys are deeply pro-life and object to being forced to pay for procedures that kill innocent human beings.”
The lawsuit goes on to allege that federal government agencies and officials “exacerbate” the violations of religious freedom rights “by prohibiting insurers on the exchanges and exchange officials from providing the Bracys or any other Americans with truthful information about abortion coverage in the plans they offer or the amount of the premiums that the issuers will collect from enrollees to be expressly and exclusively used to pay for elective abortions.”
The name of the case is Bracy v. Sebelius, with the primary defendant being Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The HHS directed questions about the lawsuit to the U.S. Justice Department. The Law Tribune has left a message with the Justice Department seeking comment.
Local And National Counsel
Barth Bracy is a resident of Dayville, in eastern Connecticut, but he is the executive director of the Rhode Island Right to Life organization. He and his wife are represented in Connecticut by Michael DePrimo, a Hamden attorney experienced in handling legal issues for pro-life advocates. DePrimo recently took to the U.S. Supreme Court a Massachusetts case that dealt with the rights of protesters near abortion clinics.
The Bracys are getting national legal help from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian-based legal organization headquartered in Arizona. ADF co-counsel Casey Mattox called the Bracy’s lawsuit “the first case of its kind” in the U.S.
Connecticut’s failure to provide the Bracys with a health care insurance policy with no abortion coverage is “a clear violation of their First Amendment rights and the Connecticut and federal Religious Freedom Act,” Mattox said. “I think there very well may be more lawsuits” challenging the abortion provisions and secrecy issue.
In April, the Connecticut Office of Legislative Research reported that the federal Affordable Care Act — often referred to as Obamacare — requires the federal Office of Personnel Management offer at least one multi-state policy that excludes abortion. However, that requirement is being phased in over the next few years. The legislative report says that Access Health CT, which administers the Affordable Care Act in Connecticut, will offer one of the multi-state plans beginning sometime next year.
All states are required to offer such a policy by 2017. Mattox said that most states have an abortion-free option already, though Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Iowa, Wyoming, Minnesota and Illinois are among those that do not.
The lawsuit states that the future availability of an abortion-free plan will come too late for the Bracys, who have four children and who claim that they have been notified that their current policy will be canceled later this year. They said the cancellation notice came just months after premiums jumped from $70 to $494 per month, an increase they also blamed on the Affordable Care Act.
According to the lawsuit, the family would have to pay just $2.63 per month, after subsidies, for an Access Health CT policy similar to their current policy. However, they say, that would require them to contribute to covering the costs of elective abortions, or to pay a “burdensome fine” under the Affordable Care Act, if they decline to purchase coverage.
In an interview on LifesiteNews.com, Bracy said Access Health CT told him, in effect, “‘The only thing you have to do [to obtain coverage] is give us a buck or two a month to pay for other people’s abortions.’ We just can’t do that.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is already reviewing provisions of the Affordable Care Act that require for-profit employers of a certain size to offer insurance benefits for birth control and other reproductive health services without a co-pay. Some company owners say that they should be able to refuse such coverage because offering it would violate their long-established personal beliefs.
The justices heard arguments in March involving claims brought by two companies, Conestoga Wood Specialties and Hobby Lobby.