SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Three California churches filed suit against the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) on Friday over a directive that was issue last year that would force all faith-based employers to offer abortion coverage regardless of their religious beliefs.
As previously reported, DMHC issued a letter in August 2014 requiring all insurance companies in the state to cover abortions, leaving no way for religious organization, including churches, to opt out or choose an alternative plan.
“Abortion is a basic health care service,” Director Michelle Rouillard wrote to the 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.
The Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF) and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) soon filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services after the DMHC refused to change its decision following written correspondence between the groups.
They then filed a second complaint with the federal government on behalf of seven churches, one of which operates a Christian school, to again assert that the mandate violates the rights of faith-based employers. It cited the federal Weldon Amendment, which mandates that a state be forfeited of certain government funds if it “subjects any … health care entity to discrimination” because the entity “does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.”
Skyline Church in La Mesa, Foothill Church and Foothill Christian School in Glendora, Alpine Christian Fellowship in El Cajon, The Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch, City View Church in San Diego, Faith Baptist Church in Santa Barbara, and Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in Chino were all represented in the complaint.
On Friday, Foothill Church, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills and The Shepherd of the Hills Church filed a federal lawsuit against DMHC with the assistance of ADF. The churches are seeking a declaration that the mandate violates the First and Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and a permanent injunction against enforcement of the directive.
“Churches should not be forced to pay for the killing of innocent human life,” ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley said in a statement. “The government has no right to demand that church health insurance plans contain coverage for abortion—something that violates these churches’ most sincerely held religious beliefs. California is violating the Constitution by strong-arming churches into having this coverage in their plans.”
“Elective abortions are not part of ‘basic health care,’” added Litigation Staff Counsel Jeremiah Galus. “They have no business being forced into the medical coverage provided by churches that do not wish to support terminating lives due to very real, sincere, and well-known faith convictions. We hope the court will require California to follow the Constitution and respect these churches’ fundamental freedoms.”