Communications Department

National Right to Life Blasts Obama Administration’s Final Rule, Charging that the Government is “Falsifying” what the Law Says

Oct 1, 2013 | 2013 Press Releases

WASHINGTON (October 1, 2013) – The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the federation of state right-to-life organizations, blasted the final rule issued yesterday by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) with regards to the health plans that Members of Congress and certain congressional staff will buy on a new SHOP Exchange.

In a September 9 release, NRLC said, “the Constitution does not confer on any President a retroactive, line-item veto, by which he may arbitrarily nullify specific provisions of duly enacted laws.”  Having now seen the final rule, NRLC Senior Legislative Counsel Susan T. Muskett, J.D. warned: “The Constitution does not grant the President the authority to retroactively rewrite the laws.”

NRLC charges the Obama Administration with “falsifying” what the Smith Amendment statutorily prohibits with regards to OPM’s activities.  (The Smith Amendment is a limitation amendment on OPM’s annual appropriations bill).  In NRLC’s view, any OPM director who implements this White House-directed policy should face future prosecution under the Anti-Deficiency Act, 31 U.S.C. § 1341.  (The Anti-Deficiency Act is a longstanding federal law that provides, in certain circumstances, civil and criminal liability for expenditure of congressional funds outside the limits set by Congress).

OPM proposes allowing the government to purchase abortion-covering plans for Members of Congress and their staffs, which is something that no other federal employee is allowed to do.  OPM’s rule spells out how this transition will occur, without interrupting the contributions made by the government to the cost of such plans (approximately 75% of the premium cost).  If this occurs, it will violate an explicit congressional prohibition, the Smith Amendment. For most of the past 30 years, the Smith Amendment has prohibited OPM from any administrative involvement in purchasing any health plan for federal employees that covers abortion (except in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest).

OPM does not dispute the application of the Smith Amendment to the purchase of Exchange plans by Members of Congress and certain congressional staff.  Rather, OPM erroneously asserts that the Smith Amendment prohibits OPM from using appropriated funds to “administer” Exchange plans by administering “the terms of the health benefits plans offered on an Exchange.”  This deceptive assertion ignores the plain wording of the Smith Amendment which explicitly prohibits the use of any appropriated federal funds “to pay for . . . the administrative expenses in connection with any health plan . . . which provides any benefits or coverage for abortions.” (emphasis added).  It is undeniable that OPM will incur “administrative expenses in connection with” the purchase of Exchange health plans that cover abortion.

In a comment letter submitted to OPM, NRLC noted that OPM spokespersons have engaged in “blatant misdirection” in recent weeks, “attempting to mislead journalists and others into thinking that the new protests [against the proposed rule] are a reiteration of objections to the manner in which the new ‘refundable premium assistance tax credits’ will be used to subsidize private health plans that cover abortion” under Obamacare. That issue, while extremely important in its own right, has nothing whatever to do with the impending violation of the Smith Amendment, the NRLC letter explains.

Founded in 1968, National Right to Life, the federation of 50 state right-to-life affiliates and more than 3,000 local chapters, is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots pro-life organization. Recognized as the flagship of the pro-life movement, NRLC works through legislation and education to protect innocent human life from abortion, infanticide, assisted suicide and euthanasia.

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