HHS says California can require that all health plans cover elective abortions


(CNS) — A federal agency has determined that California can continue to demand
that all health plans under the jurisdiction of the state’s Department of
Managed Health Care — “even those purchased by churches and other
religious organizations” — cover elective abortions for any reason.

coverage includes late-term abortions and “those performed for reasons of
‘sex selection.'”

chairmen of two U.S. Catholic bishops’ committees June 22 said the administrative
ruling issued a day earlier by the U.S. Department of health and Human Services
fails to respect the right to life and religious freedom.

is shocking that HHS has allowed the state of California to force all employers
— even churches — to fund and facilitate elective abortions in their health
insurance plans,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore.

cardinal is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on
Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Lori chairs the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for
Religious Liberty.

those who disagree on the issue of life should be able to respect the
conscience rights of those who wish not to be involved in supporting
abortion,” they said in a statement.

chairmen called for an immediate federal legislative remedy, urging Congress to
pass the Conscience Protection Act introduced by lawmakers last March.
Supporters of the measure, who include the USCCB, say it would address the
situation in California by closing several loopholes in current law.

2014, the state began demanding all health plans under its Department of
Managed Health Care cover elective abortions. The state allows no exemption of
any kind.

California Catholic Conference and other churches and religious organizations filed
a complaint about the policy with the Office of Civil Rights at HHS asserting
that California’s reinterpretation of state law violated the federal Weldon
Amendment, which was enacted in 2005 to protect the conscience rights of physicians and
nurses who choose not to participate in abortions and hospitals that do not
offer them.

(HHS) administrative ruling fails to respect not only the rights to life and
religious freedom, but also the will of Congress and the rule of law,” Cardinal
Dolan and Archbishop Lori said, adding that passage of the Conscience
Protection Act would “stop further discrimination against people of faith
and against all who respect unborn human life.”

cardinal and archbishop wrote a letter in March to House members urging that they
vote for the measure, and in April a group of 26 organizations sent a letter to
lawmakers stating their support.

4828, as the bill is known in the House, “is very similar to the abortion
nondiscrimination provision that for the last three years has been part of the
House’s Labor/HHS appropriations bills,” the letter said. “It takes
the core policy of Weldon — protecting those who decline to perform, pay for,
refer for, or provide coverage for abortion — and writes it into permanent
law. It clarifies the protections of Weldon, and adds a private right of action
to enforce this law and other long-standing conscience laws on abortion.”

the USCCB, signers of the letter included the Christian Medical Association and
Catholic Medical Association; the National Council of Catholic Women; the March
for Life Education and Defense Fund; the National Association of Evangelicals;
the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; the Knights of
Columbus; National Right to Life; and several associations of physicians and

measure was introduced in the Senate May 12; S. 2927 has been referred to the Senate
Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

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