Currently, the state of California requires insurance plans to cover the cost of abortions. But now, the Trump administration is threatening to cut off federal funds if the requirement isn’t scratched.
Officials with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) argued in a statement issued Friday that the insurance requirement forces people to pay for others’ abortions, violating federal law.
The memo from the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights is “ formally notifying California that it cannot impose universal abortion coverage mandates on health insurance plans and issuers in violation of federal conscience laws. California has deprived over 28,000 people of plans that did not cover elective abortion, but now must cover abortion due to California’s mandate.”
Officials with HHS are taking issue with a 2014 California law requiring all insurance plans to cover abortions. Religious organizations have argued the statute is discriminatory because it violates religious freedom.
The HHS investigation and subsequent demand arose from two complaints issued by Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit, a Catholic order of religious sisters, and Skyline Wesleyan Church, a non-profit Christian church.
OCR has completed the investigation of the complaints and determined that California violated the Weldon Amendment by mandating that California health care plan issuers cover elective abortion in each plan product, and continues to violate federal law by continuing to require objecting health care entities protected by the Weldon Amendment to cover elective abortion.
The Trump administration has given the state of California 30 days to come into compliance with federal law.
California is currently in violation of the Weldon amendment, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.
The amendment has been added to federal spending bills dating back to 2004 and makes clear that federal funds may not be given to any state or local governments that subject “any institutional or individual healthcare entity to discrimination on the basis that the healthcare entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra accused the Trump White House of “attacking women’s health in order to grandstand at today’s anti-choice rally.”
HHS Secretary Alex Azar praised Trump for staying true to his promise to advance pro-life policies.
“Once again,” he said, “President Trump’s administration is delivering on his promise to protect human life and all Americans’ freedom of conscience. Under President Trump, HHS has been vigorously enforcing the statutes Congress passed to protect Americans’ consciences and institutionalizing these protections within the department’s civil rights work.”
The memo from HHS came the same day as President Trump spoke at the annual March for Life, a pro-life rally in Washington, D.C. Trump is the first sitting commander-in-chief to speak at the event in-person.