A federal court has ruled that the California mandate that forces churches to pay for abortions in their health insurance plans is unconstitutional.
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.
After years of fighting the battle, the churches finally got a victory today.
A federal district court ruled Thursday that a California mandate that forces churches to pay for elective abortions in their health insurance plans is unconstitutional. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Foothill Church in Glendora, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in Chino, and The Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch filed a motion in April asking the court to definitively rule in their favor and allow the churches to operate according to their religious beliefs, which uphold the sanctity of unborn lives.
“The government can’t force a church or any other religious employer to violate their faith and conscience by participating in funding abortion,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus. “For years, California has unconstitutionally targeted faith-based organizations, so we’re pleased the court has found this mandate unconstitutional and will allow the churches we represent to operate freely according to their religious beliefs.”
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“In sum, the Director has not shown ‘[she] lacks other means of achieving [her] desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion by [plaintiffs],’” the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Sacramento Division, wrote in its opinion in Foothill Church v. Watanabe. “The Director’s denial of the Churches’ request for exceptions to accommodate their religious beliefs, based solely on the fact that those requests did not originate with a plan, was not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest.”
As revealed in e-mails that ADF attorneys discovered, the California Department of Managed Health Care 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.
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.
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.”