President Donald Trump will withhold $200 million in Medicaid funds from the state of California because of its policy essentially forcing Christians to fund abortions.
California requires 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.
But now, the Trump administration is taking action against California over its requirement, 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.
And as a result, HHS Secretary Alex Azar announced today at a pro-life forum at the White House that the Trump administration with withhold $200 million in Medicaid funds per quarter from California until it removes the abortion-funding requirement.
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Earlier this year, the trump administration warned that action would be forthcoming if California refused to drop the abortion funding mandate.
“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.”
Following the announcement, the Christian Medical Association told LifeNews.com it appreciated the Trump administration taking action.
CMA Director of Federal Government Relations Jonathan Imbody said “The HHS action against the state of California sends a strong message that no state, no matter how large and no matter how radical the abortion views of its leaders, can unilaterally nullify federal conscience protections. For some reason, the abortion industry and its politician allies seem fixated on forcing Catholic nuns to participate in abortion through insurance coverage—from the Little Sisters of the Poor to the sisters of the Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit. This radical trampling of conscience is contrary to our most fundamental, Constitutional freedoms of thought, speech and exercise of faith.”
Denise Harle, Legal Counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, previously told LifeNews.com she was happy about the prospects for action against California.
“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.”
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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.”