Judge Upholds Requirement Forcing California Churches to Pay for Abortions

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Sep 6, 2017   |   3:13PM   |   Sacramento, California

Churches in California still are being forced to pay for abortions in their health insurance plans after a federal court dismissed a legal challenge by three churches Friday.

Churches across California have been battling the onerous abortion mandate for years with no relief. 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 elective abortions immediately. Even churches are not exempt.

Friday was another defeat for the churches in Foothill Church v. Rouillard when a federal court dismissed their case against the mandate.

“If the state can force a church to pay for the very thing they counsel against, in violation of their constitutionally protected religious beliefs, then no American is secure,” said Jeremiah Galus, who is representing the churches through Alliance Defending Freedom.

Galus said they are considering whether to appeal the latest ruling.

“Churches should be free to serve their communities according to their religious beliefs without unjust government edicts that force them to violate those beliefs,” Galus continued. “California has no right to dictate what pastors or churches believe on moral and cultural issues. Yet, with the stroke of a pen—and without consulting the public—the state mandated that churches must pay for the taking of innocent human life.”

The lawsuit is 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. Those came on the heels of a complaint filed directly with DMHC, which responded by affirming its decision to force all plans to cover all abortions without explanation.

Pro-life members of Congress hope President Donald Trump’s administration will provide relief. In April, they asked the administration to uphold the Weldon Amendment — federal law that protects conscience rights.

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After the meeting, the legislators told LifeNews in a statement: “After our meeting with Secretary [Tom] Price, we are fully confident that the Trump Administration is willing to take a fresh look at the California abortion mandate controversy and other conscience violations, addressing them in a way that respects the people’s rights and fully conforms with the congressional intent of the Weldon Amendment. Ultimately, the government has no right to force Americans to participate in a practice that takes the lives of unborn children.”

The Obama administration did investigate California’s abortion mandate, but its HHS Office of Civil Rights concluded that it found no violation of the law.

The decision was based on a flawed reading of the Weldon Amendment.  Under Obama, the office argued that the Weldon Amendment only protects health insurance plans, and not the purchasers of such plans. It also stated that the insurance companies have not complained.

Pro-life leaders in Congress were furious with the Obama administration when it accepted the abortion mandate as constitutional.

“Nearly two years after California imposed its draconian mandate that requires all insurance companies to pay for abortion the Obama Administration has reached a new low — reinterpreting the Weldon amendment to allow the mandate to continue,” said Rep. Chris Smith, Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus in comments to LifeNews.com, previously. “This means that Californians, including churches, will continue to be forced to pay for elective abortions in their insurance plans.”