SACRAMENTO — The California Department of Managed Health Care has issued a letter requiring insurance companies in the state to cover abortions, forcing all faith-based employers to likewise offer abortion coverage regardless of their religious beliefs.
“Abortion is a basic health care service,” director Michelle Rouillard wrote on Friday to seven insurance companies that refused to offer coverage.“All health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally.”
She asserted that abortion must be covered because the “California Constitution prohibits health plans from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy,” and also cited a 1975 law surrounding “medically necessary” health care.
The directive is believed to come as a result of a decision made last year by two Roman Catholic/Jesuit universities in the state, Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount University, to no longer pay for abortions, but that employees could buy coverage through a third party. Some faculty members objected to the announcement and called upon Gov. Jerry Brown to intervene.
Beth Parker, the chief counsel for Planned Parenthood, praised the directive by the directive issued by Rouillard, stating she was “thrilled that the state is complying with California law and ensuring that women of California have access to all reproductive health services.”
But Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the Life Legal Defense Foundation assert that the department’s mandate violates federal law, and sent a rebuttal letter on Friday calling for a retraction under threat of a federal lawsuit.
“[F]ederal law prevents California from mandating that a health insurance plan include abortion coverage,” the letter to Roullard stated. “The DMHC’s action is a clear violation of the Weldon Amendment and, if not reversed, could trigger loss of funding to the entire state and its departments.”
“[I]f DMHC does not reverse its decision, we are prepared to file complaints with the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services, which has promised to enforce and police the Weldon Amendment ‘to ensure that Department funds do not support coercive or discriminatory practices, or policies in violation of federal law,'” the groups vowed.
“Faith-based organizations should be free to operate according to the faith they espouse and live out on a daily basis,” said ADF Senor Legal Counsel Matthew Bowman. “When Congress enacted the Weldon Amendment, it sought to ensure that the government could never strong-arm pro-life employers into paying for abortion coverage; therefore, California’s decision is illegal. No state can ignore federal law in a pursuit to conform everyone to the state’s own ideology on abortion.”
“Under federal law, pro-life employers have the freedom to choose health insurance plans that do not conflict with their beliefs on the dignity of human life,” added LLDF Legal Director Catherine Short. “Already under Obamacare’s mandates, employers and individuals are required to purchase health insurance coverage they may not need or want. California cannot be allowed to discriminate against health plans that don’t cover elective abortions and force people to purchase coverage that conflicts with their convictions.”
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