The Obama Administration is supporting a California law that forces churches and other religious organizations to pay for abortions in their employee health insurance plans. In so doing, the Obama Administration is ignoring federal law that protects the conscience rights of churches and religious institutions.
The controversy stems from actions by California state health officials in 2014 to define abortion as an essential benefit in the state’s Obamacare health insurance exchange. By that action, the State of California required all health insurance plans issued in the state to include abortion coverage, with no exemption for churches, religious colleges, and other non-profit religious entities.
“Abortion is a basic health care service,”stated Michelle Rouillard, the Director of the California Department of Managed Health Care, in issuing the edict. “All health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortions neutrally,” Rouillard wrote, without favoring childbirth over elective abortion.
Two Catholic Jesuit universities challenged the abortion mandate, saying that the policy compelled them to finance the killing of unborn children in violation of their religious conscience. Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount University both chose to defy the mandate, refusing to include abortion coverage in their group health insurance plans.
“Our core commitments as a Catholic university are incompatible with the inclusion of elective abortion coverage in the university’s health insurance plans,” said Santa Clara University President Fr. Michael Engh. “This decision flows from our identity and mission as a Jesuit, Catholic University.”
The actions by California health officials stand in contradiction to a federal law known as the Weldon Amendment. That law provides that no state or local government can receive federal funds if it requires health insurance providers to provide coverage for abortion. The statute is named after former Congressman Dave Weldon of Florida, who sponsored the amendment back in 2004.
However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ruled last week that the law somehow doesn’t apply in this instance. This is just the latest in a nonstop string of outlaw actions by the Obama Administration to fail to enforce laws it doesn’t like, and to unilaterally create laws through executive orders to accomplish those things that it does like.
Casey Mattox, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, decried the latest anti-religous behavior by the current Administration in Washington. “The Obama Administration is once again making a mockery of the law, and this time in the most unimaginable way. Forcing a religious institution to be a party to elective abortions is one of the utmost-imaginable assaults on our most fundamental American freedoms.”
Meanwhile, the Alliance Defending Freedom has filed suit in U.S. District Court in California on behalf of seven California churches who object to underwriting the abortion of preborn children in their health insurance plans. Last week the federal court denied a request by the California Department of Managed Care to dismiss the case.
Jeremiah Galus, legal counsel for ADF, says the court’s preliminary action provides some encouragement. “Californians shouldn’t be forced to choose between following their deepest convictions and submitting to unlawful, unjust government mandates. The Department of Managed Health Care has left churches with no legal way to opt out of paying for abortions.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has condemned the latest anti-life actions of the Obama Administration. “It is shocking that HHS has allowed the State of California to force churches to fund and facilitate elective abortions in their health insurance plans,” says Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.
“Even those who disagree on the issue of life should be able to respect the conscience rights of those who wish not to be involved in supporting abortion,” Dolan continued. “This administrative ruling fails to respect not only the right to life and the right to religious freedom, but also the will of Congress and the rule of law.”
Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, Co-Chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, says that the abortion mandate is yet another anti-life consequence of the passage of Obamacare, officially known as the so-called Affordable Care Act. “This decision illustrates the far reaches of Obama’s radical pro-abortion ideology–forcing churches and communities of faith that have pro-life convictions to pay for a practice that dismembers and chemically poisons unborn children.”
“Congress must not let this discrimination stand,” Smith added. “Congress needs to enact legislation so churches and other victims have a private right of action so they can have their day in court.”
Fortunately, the Missouri Legislature enacted a law in 2010 that protects religious organizations in our state from finding themselves in the same predicament as those in California. Missouri lawmakers took advantage of an opt-out provisions in Obamacare that allowed states to prohibit abortion coverage in health insurance exchanges operating in their state.
While no Missouri insurer is allowed to include abortion coverage in health insurance exchange plans, Missouri taxpayers still end up having their federal tax dollars pay for abortions in other states like California through subsidies for Obamacare coverage.