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Daniel Balserak

Senior Policy Advisor, Office for Civil Rights (Contractor)

Daniel Balserak is a lawyer who spent eight years as the Archdiocese of Washington’s deputy general counsel. In 2012, while Balserak was an employee, the archdiocese joined dozens of other Catholic institutions in suing the Obama administration over its requirement that employers cover birth control in health insurance plans. The lawsuit was settled under the Trump administration, allowing organizations to withhold coverage for birth control.

HOW THEIR ROLE AFFECTS ACCESS TO REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at HHS is charged with enforcing anti-discrimination laws, health privacy laws and conscience laws. The Washington Post reported that the Office for Civil Rights during Trump's tenure “has been greatly strengthening and expanding protections for health care providers who have religious- or conscience-based objections to procedures such as abortion.” It went on to say that “the makeover appears radical, one that critics worry will jeopardize the care of pregnant women and transgender individuals, as well as others who could be denied certain procedures.”

As an OCR advisor, Balserak is in a position to influence the implementation of these changes as well as shape additional rules and guidelines.

PREVIOUS EMPLOYMENT OF NOTE

Deputy General Counsel at the Archdiocese of Washington, 2009 – 2017

TIES TO OTHER ANTI-CHOICE EXTREMISTS

Mary Vigil:

Mary Vigil formerly worked as an advisor at HHS’s Office of Population Affairs under the Trump administration. She was a senior manager of the Archdiocese of Washington’s healthcare network during Balserak’s time as the Archdiocese’s deputy counsel. Vigil protested Obamacare’s requirement that employers offer their employees health insurance that covers birth control, telling the Washington Post, “’There are so many places I’d like to look for work where I wouldn’t be allowed to practice.”

Jane Belford:

Jane Belford was the Archdiocese of Washington’s chancellor and general counsel for much of Balserak’s time as deputy counsel. During testimony opposing Obamacare’s requirement that employers cover birth control in health insurance plans, Belford claimed that Ella, a form of emergency contraception, is tantamount to abortion.

THE WHOLE STORY

During Daniel Balserak’s Tenure As A Lawyer At The Archdiocese, The Organization Sued Over Obamacare’s Requirement That Employers Offer Employees Health Insurance That Covers Birth Control

The Archdiocese Was Part Of A Lawsuit Arguing That Obamacare’s Birth Control Requirement Violated Catholics’ Religious Freedom

The Archdiocese’s Then Chancellor And General Counsel, Jane Belford, Testified That The Birth Control Requirement Would Result In The Loss Of “Freedom Of Conscience.” “Jane G. Belford, chancellor of the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, told the hearing that if the mandate is not rescinded then its religious exemption would fail to protect ‘the vast majority of religious stakeholders in the process of providing health insurance.’ ‘Until now, federal law has never prevented religious employers, like the Archdiocese of Washington, from providing for the needs of their employees with a health plan that is consistent with the Church’s moral teachings.’ Under the new rules, she said, Catholic schools that teach abortion is morally wrong could be forced to pay for abortifacient drugs for their employees. Catholic health clinics that refuse to provide contraception or sterilization for patients could have to subsidize contraception and sterilization for their employees. ‘Currently, the archdiocese is free under federal law to offer health benefits coverage that excludes contraception and sterilization,’ Belford continued. ‘We would lose this freedom of conscience under the HHS mandate’s current definition of an exempted religious organization.’” [Catholic News Agency, 11/4/2011]

In A Comment Posted Online During The Lawsuit, Balserak Rejected The Suggestion That Catholics Could Continue To Practice Their Religion Under The Birth Control Requirement. In response to an essay by philosopher Peter Singer, who wrote that the birth control mandate did not violate Catholics’ freedom to practice their religion because “Catholicism does not oblige its adherents to run hospitals and universities” affected by the mandate, Balserak wrote:

 

As A Lawyer For The Archdiocese of Washington, Balserak Was Part Of The Fight Against D.C.’s Legalization Of Same-Sex Marriage; When Same-Sex Marriage Was Legalized The Archdiocese Altered Its Employee Health Coverage In Protest

Citing Religious Liberty Concerns, Balserak And The Archdiocese Fought The D.C. Council’s 2009 Vote To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

The Archdiocese Argued That The D.C. Council “Found A Right For Same-Sex Couples To Marry By Ignoring The Right To Religious Liberty.” “For the third time in less than a year, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics ruled Feb. 4 against letting District residents vote on the issue of same-sex marriage, saying it violates the city's Human Rights Act. The Archdiocese of Washington released a statement and a legal analysis of the board's decision that said board members ignored the religious liberty concerns presented to them. ‘It is extremely disappointing that a two-person panel determined a referendum would ‘violate the Human Rights Act’ without addressing the religious liberty arguments, considering religious liberty also is protected under the Human Rights Act. In short, the panel found a right for same-sex couples to marry by ignoring the right to religious liberty,’ the statement said. Daniel Balserak, staff counsel to the Archdiocese of Washington, said the board ‘flatly ignored’ arguments that the petition is a proper subject for referendum. He added that the archdiocese expected this decision from the board. They (board members) ‘clearly believe that same-sex marriage is desirable public policy, and we did not expect them to feel that the new legal issues at play in this proceeding require a different outcome,’ Balserak said.” [Catholic Standard, 2/9/2010]

After Same-Sex Marriage Was Legalized, The Archdiocese Altered Its Employee Healthcare Coverage To Avoid Providing Benefits to Same-Sex Couples

The Archdiocese Stopped Offering Healthcare Coverage To All Employee Spouses To Avoid The Possibility Of Providing Benefits To Same-Sex Couples. “Employees at Catholic Charities were told Monday that the social services organization is changing its health coverage to avoid offering benefits to same-sex partners of its workers -- the latest fallout from a bitter debate between District officials trying to legalize same-sex marriage and the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. Starting Tuesday, Catholic Charities will not offer benefits to spouses of new employees or to spouses of current employees who are not already enrolled in the plan…The church faced two options with the approval of the new law, said Robert Tuttle, a George Washington University professor who studies the relationship between church and state. One choice was to expand the definition of domestic partner, as the Archdiocese in San Francisco did years ago, to include a parent, sibling or someone else in the household. The second choice was to do what the Washington Archdiocese has done: eliminate benefits for all spouses.” [The Washington Post, 3/2/2010]

  • The Archdiocese Also Ended Its Foster Care Program To Avoid Licensing Same-Sex Couples To Take In Children. “The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has ended its 80-year-old foster-care program in the District rather than license same-sex couples, the first fallout from a bitter debate over the city's move to legalize same-sex marriage. Catholic Charities, which runs more than 20 social service programs for the District, transferred its entire foster-care program -- 43 children, 35 families and seven staff members -- to another provider, the National Center for Children and Families…‘Now we're in a position where we need to scrutinize everything,’ [president and chief executive of Catholic Charities Edward Orzechowski] said. ‘From our point of view, it's important that we don't in any way compromise our religious teaching.’” [Washington Post, 2/17/2010]

Balserak Has Continued His Work On Religious Freedom At HHS

In His Role At OCR, Balserak Has Worked With The Office's Conscience And Religious Freedom (CRF) Division On Multiple Occasions

[FOIA filed by Equity Forward on 1/26/18; response received from HHS on 7/23/18]

The CRF Division Was Created By OCR Director Roger Severino To Facilitate Discrimination Against Women Seeking Abortions, Transgender Individuals. "The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights is creating a new division to protect health workers with moral or religious objections to performing certain procedures, including things like abortions or sex reassignment surgery for transgender patients." [Buzzfeed, 1/17/18]