The Trump administration is clamping down on California for forcing private insurance companies to provide abortion coverage in every medical insurance plan, a violation of federal law. The announcement came this morning from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR) right before President Trump spoke to tens of thousands of pro-life supporters at the National March in Washington, D.C.
“We are grateful the Trump administration is holding California accountable for violating the conscience rights of its citizens,” said Jonathan Keller, president of the California Family Council. “The federal law is clear. States can’t force private insurance companies to cover abortion, especially for churches and religious organizations who object to using their own money to pay for something that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
According to OCR’s notice of violation, California’s Department of Managed Health decided to mandate all insurance plans include abortion coverage in August of 2014 after two California two religiously affiliated universities decided to change their employee health care plans to no longer cover abortion. “Abortion providers and advocacy groups, including Planned Parenthood, learned of this development and pressured DMHC to not only reverse its decision to allow the coverage changes, but also to make elective abortion coverage mandatory for all health care plans falling under DMHC’s jurisdiction,” stated the notice.
In response to this abortion insurance mandate, several California religious organizations, including the Guadalupanas Sisters of Los Angeles and Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, filed a complaint with OCR alleging that California was violating a federal discrimination prevention law called the Weldon Amendment. The amendment clearly states that, “None of the funds made available in this Act may be made available to a . . . State or local government, if such . . . government subjects any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” Today, OCR announced its agreement with this complaint.
“No one in America should be forced to pay for or cover other people’s abortions,” said Roger Severino, Director of OCR. “We are putting California on notice that it must stop forcing people of goodwill to subsidize the taking of human life, not only because it’s the moral thing to do, but because it’s the law.”
According to OCR, California’s mandated abortion coverage impacted at least 35 employer groups associated with at least 28,647 people. OCR has given the state 30 days to decide if it will change its abortion insurance requirement before it starts procedures to limit certain HHS funds.
Judging by the immediate reaction of the state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, California is not going to comply without a fight. Becerra’s office already released a press release calling the Weldon Amendment violations “baseless.”
“Women’s health should never be dangled as bait for the sake of political grandstanding,” Becerra stated in his press release. “Today, Donald Trump is using the official levers of government to advance his political agenda. Sound familiar? In California, we will continue to protect our families’ access to healthcare, including women’s constitutional right to abortion. Nothing changes.”
The Trump administration, on the other hand, says the decision is evidence of the President’s pro-life convictions. “Once again, President Trump’s administration is delivering on his promise to protect human life and all Americans’ freedom of conscience,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “Under President Trump, HHS has been vigorously enforcing the statutes Congress passed to protect Americans’ consciences and institutionalizing these protections within the department’s civil rights work.”