Press Releases

Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Steve Daines (R-MT), along with U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), sent a letter signed by 94 Members of Congress, including 17 Senators and 77 House members, to Margaret Weichert, Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), urging her to stop administering government contributions for Members of Congress and Congressional staff in connection with health insurance plans that cover elective abortion, in violation of the longstanding Smith Amendment.
 
The full text of the letter is below.
 
Dear Acting Director Weichert:
 
We urge you to stop the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) from administering government contributions for Members of Congress and Congressional staff in connection with health insurance plans that cover elective abortion, in violation of the longstanding Smith (NJ) Amendment.
 
Since 1984, the Smith Amendment to the Financial Services Appropriations bill has prohibited the use of appropriated funds “to pay for an abortion, or the administrative expenses in connection with any health plan under the Federal employees health benefits program which provides any benefits or coverage for abortions,” except in cases “where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term, or the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest” (Consolidated Appropriations Act 2019, Pub. L. 116-6, Div. D, Title VI, sec. 613, 614, February 15, 2019). This longstanding provision of law restricts OPM from administering government contributions in connection with any health plan for federal employees that covers elective abortion.
 
However, OPM is currently subsidizing plans that cover elective abortion in clear violation of the Smith Amendment. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) limits Members of Congress and designated Congressional staff to purchasing health plans offered through an Exchange, under a current Obama-era rule in effect since plan year 2014 (5 CFR § 890.501(h), 78 FR 60653, October 2, 2013), OPM administers government contributions under 5 U.S. Code §?8906 for Members of Congress and Congressional staff enrolled in any Gold level health insurance plan offered through the District of Columbia’s Small Business Health Options Program (DC SHOP), including plans that cover elective abortion. In plan year 2019, 87% of the Gold level plans on the DC SHOP covered elective abortion. Only 9 out of 67 plans excluded such coverage.
 
In its regulatory preamble (78 FR 60654, October 2, 2013) and on its Frequently Asked Questions webpage, OPM claims that these abortion subsidies are allowed by attributing the segregated costs of the elective abortion coverage and associated administrative expenses to the individual’s contribution, rather than the taxpayers’ contribution. OPM’s use of this accounting gimmick to grant abortion subsidies to Congress is not provided for under Section 1303 of the ACA, and is blatantly illegal under the Smith Amendment’s strict requirement for a complete exclusion of elective abortion coverage for federal employees. By flouting the Smith Amendment, such subsidies also violate the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits the authorization of expenditures or obligations without an appropriation by law.  
 
Taxpayers, who pay 72 to 75 percent of these health benefit premiums, do not want their hard-earned tax dollars to pay for abortions. The Smith Amendment does not allow Members of Congress and Congressional staff to operate under a different set of rules than other federal employees when it comes to taxpayer funding of abortion.
                   
Therefore, we request swift action by OPM to ensure that any health insurance subsidies for members of Congress or Congressional staff are in full compliance with the clear terms of the Smith Amendment, at least by the beginning of plan year 2020. Any DC SHOP plan which covers elective abortion should not be eligible for a government contribution.