California May File Lawsuit to Force Churches to Fund Abortions

State   |   Mica   |   Mar 22, 2017   |   3:42PM   |   Sacramento, California

California is the only state in the U.S. that requires health insurance plans to cover elective abortions. Its onerous mandate even forces churches and other religious groups to pay for abortions in their employee health plans.

The new plan to repeal and replace Obamacare in Congress could change that, and some California leaders are upset.

The Sacramento Bee reports the proposed American Health Care Act would get rid of taxpayer-funded subsidies for insurance plans that cover elective abortions. If enacted, all of the health insurance plans in the California exchange would no longer be subsidized, according to the report.

Here’s more from the report:

“California is really in a bind here,” said Amy Chen, staff attorney in the Los Angeles office of the National Health Law Program, a legal organization that advocates for the health rights of low-income people. “It creates an untenable situation because almost no one would be eligible for these tax credits.”

The average enrollee in Covered California plans received $3,500 in credits in 2016, while the average household received $5,300. Without those subsidies, many people would be priced out of coverage, Chen said.

In other states, where abortion coverage is not required, some marketplace plans will likely drop the benefit in favor of the subsidy. California is the only state requiring health plans pay for abortions.

While California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones suggested that the state could file a lawsuit to challenge the federal provision, if it becomes law, others suggested California should change its law to allow health plans that do not cover abortions.

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Jonathan Keller, president and CEO of California Family Council, told the newspaper: “If they did that, it would be in compliance with the rulings of the new American Health Care Act, and companies and organizations that wanted to provide plans that cover abortions still could. That’s what we believe is the best situation because you resolve the lawsuit situation with the faith-based organizations and the collision course with the federal government at the same time.”

Churches and other religious organizations have been battling the state over its onerous abortion mandate for years. The troubling situation began in 2014 when the California Department of Managed Health Care reclassified abortion as a “basic health service” under the Affordable Care Act and ordered all insurance plans in the state to begin covering abortions immediately. Even churches are not exempt from funding abortions.

Churches have filed lawsuits against the law, but so far they still are required to pay for abortions in their employee health plans.

“Because Obamacare requires health insurance coverage, and the California mandate requires abortion coverage in any health plan, these churches are truly left with no way to opt out of paying for abortions,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Litigation Staff Counsel Jeremiah Galus, previously. “What’s absurd, though, is that the same government that rightfully does not require California churches to pay for contraceptive coverage requires them to pay for elective abortion coverage. Californians should not be forced to choose between following their deepest convictions and submitting to unlawful and unnecessary government mandates.”

ADF filed the lawsuit, Foothill Church v. Rouillard, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California on behalf of Foothill Church in Glendora, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in Chino, and The Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch.

In 2014, ADF and Life Legal Defense Foundation filed formal complaints with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services against DMHC regarding California’s mandate and its violation of federal conscience law.

Pro-life leaders also called on the Obama Administration to stop California by upholding the Weldon Amendment, a protection against state-imposed abortion mandates. In late 2016, however, the HHS Office of Civil Rights said it found no violation and closed its investigation of the complaints without further action.