May 14, 2016
There are many people who continue to scoff at our warnings about the gravity of the threats to religious liberty, and our fears of outright persecution by our government. They accuse us of scaremongering, and insist that "that will never happen".
The skeptics need to come to New York. The threat is real, and it is here, right now -- a government mandate that private health insurance plans cover elective abortions. And it is happening with all the classic characteristics of New York government -- secretive, devious, duplicitous, unaccountable, and arrogant.
To understand this, you have to have a small bit of background. The New York State Department of Financial Services regulates the insurance business. They have to approve every health insurance policy by the beginning of the new year, to make sure that it complies with all the various legal requirements in New York law. To make this easier, DFS issues what it calls "model language" for health plans. Although one would think that "model language" is merely a suggestion, in reality it is required, because no health plan would be approved without it. So every health insurance company just falls in line, and the person obtaining the insurance really has no choice. So the "model language" is actually a legal mandate, dressed up in other clothing to hide the truth.
Here's where the classic New York underhandedness comes in. Last year, DFS put out draft "model language" for small employer policies that included coverage for so-called "therapeutic abortions" -- which really means abortion on demand, for any reason whatsoever. Now, of course, there is no legal authority for this -- it isn't authorized by legislation and it's never been put through the normal process for issuing regulations. But that has never stopped a New York executive agency before -- they typically act as if they were a law unto themselves, and they just make up new "laws" as they wish.
Objections were made to the crypto-mandate, and so DFS went into "rope-a-dope" mode. They promised to study it, to discuss it with superiors, etc., etc. Nothing happened, despite repeated requests for clarification. The effect of this obfuscation and delay was that they ran out the clock until the end of the year, when every insurance plan has to be submitted for approval, including the model language.
As the deadline approached, DFS dropped the real bomb, the one that shows such patent bad faith that even completely cynical watchers of New York government were appalled. In an off-handed comment, a DFS official told a representative of the Catholic Church words to the effect that "Oh, what's the problem, you're already paying for therapeutic abortions". When our representative picked himself off the floor and asked "how?" and "since when?" and "why didn't you tell us?", the bureaucrat said that it had been the case for a long time, and that it was all under the rubric of "medically necessary surgery", which is automatically covered in all health insurance policies. And, of course, there's no exemption for religious employers or anyone else who objects to paying for the killing of unborn children.
So a sneaky, duplicitous state agency has been making Catholic institutions -- and everyone else -- pay for elective abortions for years and lying about it being "necessary surgery". And this is all done without any public awareness or scrutiny -- it's just a secret fiat from some nameless bureaucrat who is accountable to nobody. So much for the rule of law.
Fortunately, people are pushing back against this gross abuse of power. A lawsuit has been filed by the Dioceses of Albany and Ogdensburg, Catholic Charities agencies, religious communities, and a number of non-Catholic institutions, including the Episcopal Diocese of Albany. This lawsuit raises major issues about religious liberty, and how to put limits on an arbitrary, unaccountable government that is insistent on imposing morally offensive mandates on religious groups and people.
Don't listen to the skeptics. The threat to freedom of religion is real and present. And it will not go away, because the pro-abortion ideology is so deeply ingrained in our state government that they will brook no opposition, and will use any available tactic, until they enshrine abortion in every area of the law and drag everyone into complicity with the destruction of the innocents.