California Renews Mandate Forcing Churches and Christian Groups to Fund Abortions

State   Steven Ertelt   Feb 25, 2020   |   10:58AM    Sacramento, CA

The state of California is renewing a mandate that forces churches and Christian groups to pay for killing babies in abortions.

Last month, President Donald Trump took action against the California over its requirement that private health insurance plans pay for abortions. The requirement essentially forces churches and Christian groups that are pro-life to fund killing babies in abortions in their health care plans.

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.

Several churches in California have already filed suit against the mandate.

To support Christians who don’t want to fund abortions, the Trump administration issued a memo saying it violates the Weldon Amendment — federal law that protects conscience rights and prohibits states which receive federal funding from compelling healthcare plans to fund abortion. It warned California that it is violating federal law and said it must stop forcing private health insurance plans to fund killing babies in abortions or risk losing federal funds.

“If California wants to provide abortion services, it can do so,” said Roger Severino, who directs the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services. “What the state is not free to do is force people to pay for other people’s abortions.”

Severino said California has 30 days to end its abortion mandate or risk losing federal money.

Now, 30 days later, California is defying the Trump administration and is renewing its mandate forcing churches to fund abortions.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, in a letter to Severino dated Feb. 21, said has said the state will take “no corrective action” in response to the federal notice.

In a Feb. 21 press release, Becerra said “California has the sovereign right to protect women’s reproductive rights.”

“Political grandstanding should never interfere with that,” he added.

Becerra’s letter objected that the notice contradicts a 2016 determination that California was in compliance with the Weldon Amendment, despite complaints from groups like the California Catholic Conference. The attorney general argued that the latest notice “dramatically reinterprets” the amendment and threatens to cut federal funding for vital state programs.

California’s decision will likely prompt more legal action from the Trump administration and churches against the state.

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“Clearly, this is a disappointing response by the attorney general,” Stephen J. Greene, the attorney representing the Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit religious sisters said in a statement sent to CNA on February 24.

“As we have repeatedly stated, our clients, the Guadalupanas, just want their conscience rights (and those of others who may hold different, but sincerely held views, as well) to be respected as provided for under the law.”

“At this point, my clients need to consider their next steps as does the federal government,” said Greene.

When Trump took action against California leading pro-life groups were pleased.

Denise Harle, Legal Counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, told LifeNews.com she was happy about the action taken.

“No one should force a church or any other employer to participate in funding abortion. For years, California’s Department of Managed Health Care has demonstrated hostility to churches by forcing them to pay for elective abortions. The agency has unconstitutionally targeted religious organizations, repeatedly collaborated with pro-abortion advocates, and failed to follow the appropriate administrative procedures to institute its unprecedented mandate. We commend the Trump administration and HHS’s Office for Civil Rights for investigating and taking corrective action against the state of California for its flawed policies, persistent violation of federal law, and its willful disregard for the civil rights and conscience rights of its citizens,” Harle said.

Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, slammed California for forcing churches to fund abortions and praised President Trump.

“We thank the Trump Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services for protecting the rights of Californians who do not want to pay for or participate in health care plans that pay for abortions,” added Tobias. “It is morally abhorrent that the state of California forces its citizens to participate in plans that pay for abortions.”

“Health care is designed to save lives and protect our health,” Tobias continued. “The state of California’s coercive policies have meant that nearly every health insurance plan, no matter if an individual works for a business, a church or religious school, is required to pay for an elective abortion.”

Jeremiah Galus, who is representing the churches through Alliance Defending Freedom, says the California abortion mandate violates their religious freedoms.

“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,” he said,

“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.”

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.

As revealed in e-mails that Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys who represent the churches discovered, the agency issued its mandate in response to specific demands from Planned Parenthood. Those demands asked agency officials to implement a “fix” requiring the health plans of religious organizations to include coverage for abortion, regardless of moral or conscientious objections and despite state recognition up to that point that religious groups shouldn’t be subject to such requirements. The abortion giant threatened to promote its own legislative “solution” if the administrative agency didn’t act, so DMHC issued its mandate in 2014.

“No state agency anywhere has the right to demand that church health insurance plans contain this kind of coverage, which clearly violates these churches’ most sincerely held religious beliefs,” added ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “The state has no business implementing Planned Parenthood’s scheme to force religious groups to act contrary to their own pro-life beliefs under the threat of massive penalties if they don’t comply.”

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. However, Obama strongly supported abortion and used Obamacare to force abortion funding.

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.”