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ORTL Files Complaint with U.S. Office for Civil Rights

Salem, OR — Tuesday, January 14, Oregon Right to Life (ORTL) filed a complaint with the U.S. Office for Civil Rights, challenging the abortion-related health insurance coverage mandated by Oregon’s Reproductive Health Equity Act signed into law in 2017.

“Oregon Right to Life exists to advocate for vulnerable human beings who are not protected under law,” says Lois Anderson, ORTL executive director. “Under this mandate, we are literally being forced to violate our mission and very reason for existing.”

Oregon requires a health benefit plan in Oregon to provide coverage for abortions, contraceptives (including those that can act as abortifacients), and services related to both. ORTL objects to this mandate.

ORTL’s mission is to advocate for the most vulnerable human beings whose right to life is denied or abridged under current law. In doing so, ORTL seeks to have all that it says and does be consistent with its beliefs and a compatible part of its pro-life message. These goals apply to the health insurance coverage it offers to its employees. Oregon’s abortion coverage mandate, compelling ORTL to include coverage of abortion and abortifacients in its insurance plan, unconstitutionally burdens ORTL and violates the Weldon Amendment (“Weldon”).

Under Weldon, “[n]one of the funds made available in this Act may be made available to [a State if it] subjects any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” Because (1) ORTL qualifies as a “health care entity,” (2) ORTL objects to providing coverage for abortion and abortifacients, and (3) “discrimination” includes compelling objectors to include abortion coverage in health insurance plans, Oregon’s mandate violates Weldon.

Accordingly, ORTL seeks an exemption from the mandated abortion coverage—for itself and similarly situated entities—as applied to coverage for abortion (except where the life of the mother is in imminent danger), abortifacients, and for services related to both. Specifically, ORTL seeks an exemption that would authorize (1) insurers to offer and (2) employers to obtain health benefit plans excluding contraceptive and abortion coverage to which employers object.

Such an exemption is permitted under Oregon law if “enforcement of [the Mandate] may adversely affect the allocation of federal funds to this state.” Here, federal funds are at issue under Weldon so an exemption is warranted.

James Bopp, Jr. of The Bopp Law Firm, P.C. and counsel for ORTL says: “Oregon’s mandate that pro-life groups cover abortion on demand in its employee health plans violates their conscience rights under the Weldon Amendment. Weldon requires states to protect such conscience rights or lose federal funds. Oregon receives lots of federal funding that it is putting at risk.”

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