The federal Health and Human Services Department announced Jan. 24 that it is taking action against California for requiring private insurers to cover abortions.
“We’ve received complaints by religious entities, including a group of religious sisters from the Roman Catholic Church, including a Protestant church, that have been required by California to cover abortion as part of their insurance,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar told the crowd at Family Research Council’s ProLifeCon. “We have sought diligently to remediate that … They have refused. And so as of this moment, I have issued a notice of violation to the state of California.”
The notice, from HHS’s Office of Civil Rights, gave California 30 days to respond and take corrective action or risk losing federal funding.
“Once again, President Trump’s administration is delivering on his promise to protect human life and all Americans’ freedom of conscience,” Azar said in an HHS press release. “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.”
The civil rights office argues that California is violating the Weldon Amendment, which prohibits federal funds from going to states that discriminate against any health care entity that does not pay for, or provide, coverage for abortions.
California established a rule in 2014 that requires all insurance plans to cover abortion.
“No one in America should be forced to pay for or cover other people’s abortions,” said Roger Severino, director of the Office of Civil Rights. “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.”
“It’s been a problem since 2014,” Tony Perkins, FRC president, wrote in his Washington Update blog. “That’s when California’s health department started strong-arming employers into covering abortion on their insurance exchange. As bad as that was, the Golden State made it worse. Instead of exempting churches and other groups with religious convictions, the state ordered them to comply too.”
Early communications suggest that California politicians plan to defy the administration.
“California won’t be deterred,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra tweeted. “We will fight this by any means necessary.”