Attorney General James Sues Trump Administration For Attempting To Raise Costs Of Abortion Services Under ACA

Attorney General James Sues Trump Administration for
Attempting to Raise Costs of Abortion Services Under ACA

New Trump Administration Rule Would Place Onerous and
Confusing Requirements on Millions of Women Nationwide

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today co-led a coalition of seven attorneys general in suing the Trump Administration for making it more difficult for women in New York and across the nation to access abortion services under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In late December 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final rule that unlawfully reinterpreted Section 1303 of the ACA by requiring qualified health plans that participate in the state exchanges — like the New York State of Health — to send separate bills and collect separate payments of at least one dollar for abortion services. In their lawsuit, Attorney General James and the coalition argue that HHS’s new onerous and confusing requirement threatens women’s access to abortion. The lawsuit also highlights that the new rule is incompatible with the ACA’s requirement of equitable access to health care and disproportionately affects states — like New York, California, Maine, Oregon, and Vermont — that are committed to ensuring access to comprehensive reproductive health care by requiring health plans to provide abortion coverage.

“Every day, the Trump Administration and anti-choice activists look for new ways to undermine Roe v. Wade and impose burdensome restrictions on women’s reproductive freedoms,” said Attorney General James. “This new rule is just another attempt to control women’s bodies and make it harder for those struggling financially to exert their constitutional right to an abortion. New York will not sit idly by as this Administration continues its assault on women. We will never stop fighting to ensure every woman is able to make her own reproductive choices.”

Under New York law, all private health plans regulated by the state are required to offer abortion coverage as part of their basic health care services, but the new federal rule requires insurers to separately bill for the portion of health insurance premiums attributable to abortion coverage. The rule also requires consumers to make a separate payment of at least one dollar for these services or risk losing all of their health care coverage. HHS itself has conceded that requiring separate bills and separate payments will inevitably lead to confusion for the more than 260,000 New Yorkers that have already enrolled in a qualified health plan this year. The rule will also burden states with unnecessary administrative costs and harm consumers who will face higher insurance premiums as a result of increased costs to carriers. For example, initial compliance is expected to cost all impacted insurance companies nearly $400 million, with another $100 million in estimated annual costs to maintain the separate systems. These excessive costs put pressure on insurers to remove abortion coverage from their plans and punish those companies that do business in states, like New York, where abortion coverage is required. 

In the lawsuit filed today — led by Attorney General James and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra — the coalition argues that the new rule is unlawful because it:

  • Imposes onerous and unnecessary regulatory barriers aimed at restricting women’s constitutionally-protected right to access abortion care;
  • Seeks to frustrate state sovereignty by coercing states to change their policies relating to the protection of abortion care;
  • Violates Section 1554 of the ACA, which prohibits the promulgation of any regulation that creates unreasonable barriers to the ability of individuals to obtain appropriate medical care; and
  • Exceeds HHS’s statutory authority under Section 1303 of the ACA.

Today’s lawsuit is just the latest action in a long list of measures Attorney General James has taken to protect women’s reproductive freedom. Earlier this week, Attorney General James filed an amicus brief in Reproductive Health Services v. Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, challenging the constitutionality of several recently enacted abortion bans in the State of Missouri.  

Last week, Attorney General James secured a victory for women in Rochester seeking to have an abortion without being harassed, threatened, or blocked before entering a clinic when a district court judge dismissed a lawsuit by anti-abortion activists seeking to bypass a 15-foot “buffer zone” outside a local Planned Parenthood facility.

Earlier this month, Attorney General James filed a multistate amicus brief in support of a lawsuit that seeks to protect a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion care without the burdensome restrictions imposed by Arkansas laws. The brief — filed in support of the plaintiffs in Little Rock Family Planning Services v. Leslie Rutledge, now before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals — supports the last surgical abortion clinic in Arkansas as it challenges four state laws that would restrict the ability for women in Arkansas to access abortions by banning abortions after 18 weeks and otherwise restricting women’s access to reproductive care. 

Last month, Attorney General James filed an amicus brief defending the right to maintain full and equal access to birth control guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act for tens of thousands of women nationwide. 

Also, in December 2019, Attorney General James led a multistate amicus brief in support of a challenge by petitioners in the case June Medical Services v. Gee — now pending in the U.S. Supreme Court — challenging a Louisiana law that requires abortion providers to maintain admitting privileges at a local hospital.

In October 2019, Attorney General James filed a multistate amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed by the Jackson Women’s Health Organization against the State of Mississippi, challenging a law that would prohibit abortions after as early as six weeks of pregnancy.

In September 2019, Attorney General James led a multistate amicus brief in support of a challenge filed by Kentucky clinics and physicians challenging a Kentucky law that would ban physicians from providing second-trimester abortion services using the most common and safest procedure available for women after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

In August 2019, Attorney General James filed a multistate amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed by the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance against the State of Indiana after the state denied the clinics application for a license to open an abortion clinic that would provide medical abortions in South Bend.

In March 2019, Attorney General James co-led a coalition of 21 states in a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s regulations that threaten essential services provided under federal Title X funding. The rule — also known as the “gag rule” — places an unlawful and unethical restriction on health care providers’ ability to fully inform patients of the reproductive health services available to them by disallowing referrals for abortions and restricting counseling related to abortions. Another provision would require those who perform abortions to physically segregate their services — an expensive and potentially impossible requirement.

Finally, Attorney General James is litigating the appeal in People ex rel. James v. Griepp, to ensure that women who enter the Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica, Queens are not harassed, obstructed, or threatened by protestors.

Joining Attorney General James and Attorney General Becerra in filing today’s lawsuit were the attorneys general of Maine, Maryland, Oregon, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.