Catholic Groups Fight|NY Abortion Mandate

     ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) — Ten Catholic churches, dioceses and organizations sued New York, challenging its mandated coverage of abortion in health insurance.
     Led by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, the groups sued the New York State Department of Financial Services and seven insurance groups, on May 4 in Albany County Supreme Court.
     The lawsuit is a response to the Department of Financial Services ‘ mandate of April 26, requiring individual and small group employers to include coverage for abortions in employees’ health insurance plans.
     They want the policy enjoined as a violation of religious freedom.
     “The plaintiffs must choose between violating their sincerely held religious and conscience beliefs regarding the moral impermissibility of abortion and violating their sincerely-held religious beliefs regarding the moral obligations of employers to provide a dignified livelihood, including fair, adequate and just employment benefits, to their employees, is serious and irrevocable,” the complaint states.
     “These abortion mandates under color of law constitute an invidious and coercive governmental infringement on the religious freedom and liberty of conscience of religious institutions, employers and individuals, and, if unchecked, will then result in even further dangerous incursions on religious freedom and liberty of conscience.”
     In a statement through the archdiocese, Albany Bishop Edward Scharfenberger called the state’s actions alarming. “The Department of Financial Services, without any authority by the legislature, has taken it upon itself to force religious organizations and individuals with strong conscientious objection to abortion to fund this procedure which, in every case, kills a developing unique human person,” Scharfenberger said. “We simply cannot live with this policy, and unfortunately have been left with no choice but to bring this action.”
     The churches say the mandate also violates their freedom of association and freedom of speech.
     DFS even failed to disclose one of the mandates the churches are challenging, according to the complaint. The churches said they realized that the abortion coverage “is encrypted in health insurance contracts under the rubric of ‘medically necessary’ surgery.”
     “The imposition of this undisclosed abortion mandate, without any prior public or contractual notice, resulting in plaintiffs unwittingly and currently providing and affirmatively funding objectionable abortion coverage by the payment of premiums and co-pays contrary to their sincerely held moral and religious beliefs,” according to the complaint.
     The DFS did not respond to a request for comment.
     The plaintiffs are represented by Michael Costello with Tobin and Dempf.
     Defendants include UnitedHealthCare of New York and the Independent Health Association.

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