The Weldon Amendment’s coming back to life: what this could mean for Illinois

Recently, a familiar pro-life amendment has made the news: the Weldon Amendment.

Last week, the Washington Examiner reported that the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, sent a formal letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price, requesting that the Weldon Amendment be reviewed by the HHS. IL Congressman Peter Roskam (IL-6), along with six other members of Congress, signed the letter as well.

Under President Obama, the Weldon Amendment had not been enforced. Now, the HHS Secretary will be looking into how to properly enforce it.

So why is this so important, and what does it have to do with Illinois?

It could potentially have an impact on the new, radical pro-abortion law: SB 1564.

How? Let’s take it from the top.

What is the Weldon Amendment?

The Weldon Amendment is one of the federal statutes enacted to protect the conscience rights of health care providers who do not want to participate in certain services that go against their convictions and values.  This particular provision protects doctors, various health care organizations, insurance plans, and other health professionals from being forced to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions. Federal funds through the HHS appropriations will be cut off from any agency, program, or state or local government that discriminates against these health care providers.

In 2004, Representative Dave Weldon (R-FLA), first sponsored the language of the Weldon Amendment. It was subsequently voted on by the House Appropriations Committee and adopted as a provision of the HHS appropriations bill. Since then, it has been added to the HHS appropriation annually.

Why does it need re-enforcing?

In August of 2014, the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) mandated that all health insurers in the state of California start covering all abortions as a “basic health service.” The Alliance for Conscience Rights reports that this not only made abortion-on-demand a standard of health care, but it also required faith based institutions (Churches) and those morally opposed to abortion to abide by the ruling as well – hence violating the Weldon Amendment. Complaints were sent to the Department of Health and Human Services federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR). However, the OCR dismissed them and reinterpreted the law, claiming that insurance providers had no protection under the Weldon Amendment.

Not long after in 2016, California Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 775 into law, requiring licensed health care facilities, including crisis pregnancy centers, to provide a notice that refers their patients for abortions. There is no exception for organizations opposed to abortion.

The Weldon Amendment had been kicked to the curb.

So how does this relate to Illinois law?

In late July of 2016, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law Senate Bill SB 1564. This bill, which went into effect January 1st, 2017, forces all Illinois medical personnel and pregnancy resource centers to refer for abortions and discuss the “benefits” of abortion, regardless of their moral convictions or missions. Since then, three lawsuits have been filed on behalf of pro-life doctors and pregnancy resource centers throughout the state.

Before the bill had been called for a vote, three Illinois Congressmen penned a bipartisan letter to the members of the General Assembly, urging them to reject SB 1564. They were Congressman Peter Roskam (R), Congressman Dan Lipinski (D), and Congressman Randy Hultgren (R).

One of their primary arguments was that the bill would violate federal law, including the Weldon Amendment. This, in turn, could possibly jeopardize federal funding. They wrote:

“The provisions stand in stark contrast to the requirements of superseding federal law, including the Church Amendment, the Coats-Snowe Amendment, and the annual Hyde-Weldon Amendment. Moving forward with such legislation at the state level could seriously imperil federal funds for healthcare programs, including reimbursements under Medicare and Medicaid.”

Now that the Weldon Amendment is being brought back to life, will this have any impact on Illinois and its current, anti-conscience, legislation? The HHS is currently reviewing the details of the amendment based on the California law. However, we’ve personally spoken with Congressman Roskam’s office and confirmed he is requesting they look into how it affects Illinois’ the new law too.

Stay tuned for more updates.