Daily Dispatches
Jim Garlow, pastor of Skyline Church in La Mesa, Calif., speaks at a rally for religious liberty
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Jim Garlow, pastor of Skyline Church in La Mesa, Calif., speaks at a rally for religious liberty

Churches sue California over abortion coverage mandate

Abortion

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF) have filed a complaint with the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on behalf of seven churches compelled to provide insurance coverage for elective abortions.

In August, Michelle Rouillard, director of California’s Department of Managed Health Care, said in a letter to seven insurance companies that California’s Constitution and a 1975 state law require them to cover elective abortions in group plans.

Forcing churches to cover elective abortions assaults a fundamental American freedom, said ADF senior counsel Casey Mattox. “California is flagrantly violating the federal law that protects employers from being forced into having abortion in their health insurance plans,” Mattox said.

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Rouillard’s mandate responded to complaints after Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount University excluded elective abortion from their employee insurance policies. ADF and LLDF sent a letter to Rouillard reminding her that federal law prohibits California from forcing employers to provide elective abortion coverage. The groups filed a complaint with HHS in September on behalf of employees at Loyola Marymount University.

The Hyde Amendment, first passed in 1976, prohibits using federal tax money to fund elective abortions. And the Weldon Amendment, adopted with each Health and Human Services appropriations act since 2005, allows the federal government to withhold funding from any state that doesn’t allow conscience objections in health plans. By mandating elective abortion coverage, California has placed itself at risk for losing federal funding. “No state can blatantly ignore federal law and think that it should continue to receive taxpayer money,” Mattox said.

In response, Mattox urged the passage of the Healthcare Conscience Rights Act. Originally introduced in March 2013, the bill would codify in federal law the conscience rights protections afforded by the regular passage of the Weldon Amendment. “It would provide a clear right for anyone whose conscience protections are violated to stop the violation in court,” Mattox wrote in a Townhall.com column. “California’s radical decision might provide the moment for a return to this commonsense common ground.”

The churches’ complaint coincides with a recent report from the Government Accountability Office that revealed several insurance providers participating in Obamacare have violated a provision requiring separate itemization of abortion coverage. Without the separate itemization, federal funding has likely subsidized elective abortions.

The churches represented in the complaint are: 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.

California’s August mandate for abortion coverage responded to political pressure from the abortion lobby, labeling abortion under “basic health care,” said Catherine Short, legal director at LLDF. “This move was a pure power play,” she said. “We trust that the Department of Health and Human Services will take the necessary steps to bring the state into compliance with federal law.”

Courtney Crandell
Courtney Crandell

Courtney is a Virginia journalist. Follow her on Twitter @CourtneyLeeC.

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