A Baptist organization filed suit Wednesday against the state of Illinois over a new law that forces it to provide abortion coverage as part of its employee health insurance plan.
At issue is the Illinois Reproductive Health Act of 2019, which requires any health insurance plan that includes pregnancy-related benefits also to cover abortion. It contains no religious exemption.
The Illinois Baptist State Association joined a dental practice and its owner, and a freight company and its owner, in filing suit in state court, alleging the law violates the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act. The Thomas More Society is representing them.
“Radical partisans have forced employers of faith in Illinois into a terrible choice: either pay for the intentional termination of unborn children, or leave your employees’ families and your own without health insurance,” said Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel for the Thomas More Society.
The lawsuit says the plaintiffs believe “they have a religious and moral duty to provide health coverage to their employees.” But the law puts them in a dilemma, the suit says.
The Illinois Baptist State Association is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. It is an association of churches within the state “working together to advance the gospel in Illinois and around the world,” according to its website.
“Because ‘the Bible affirms that the unborn child is a person, bearing the image of God, from the moment of conception (Psalm 139:13–16; Luke 1:44),’ Southern Baptists have ‘historically upheld the sanctity of life in the womb and repeatedly reaffirmed opposition to legalized abortion,’” the lawsuit says.
The suit asks the court to declare the Reproductive Health Act “unlawful, invalid, unenforceable, null and void.”
“The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly condemned this sort of government coercion against people of faith, including in the 2014 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. decision. Illinois law protects the sincerely held beliefs of our state’s nonprofits and businesses, but our state’s politicians and bureaucrats have sat silent in response to the conscientious objections of people of faith to paying for elective abortions,” Breen said.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.