After receiving a notice of violation from Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights in late January, California is refusing to back down from forcing religious institutions to pay for abortion in employee’s health plans.
State Attorney General Xavier Becerra sent a letter dated February 21st in response to the Trump administration’s Notice of Violation letter. In it, he stated that no “corrective action” is necessary and insists that California is in compliance with the Weldon Amendment. The 2005 Weldon Amendment bars federal funds from state or local governments if they discriminate “on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” The Amendment further defines that the Amendment applies specifically to “a provider-sponsored organization, a health maintenance organization, a health insurance plan, or any other kind of health care facility, organization, or plan.”
This is not the first time California has violated the Weldon amendment. In 2019, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) found that a law passed in California forcing pregnancy resource centers to advertise abortion in their facilities also violated the amendment. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the pregnancy centers’ right to free speech.
Becerra also stated that, “The facts […] have not changed since the last time [the OCR] adjudicated those facts, in 2016.” Becerra is referring to the Obama administration’s declaring California not in violation of the Weldon amendment, contrary to the text of the amendment and how it was written and intended to be applied.
According to an article in the National Catholic Register, the insurance coverage issue first arose in 2013 when two Catholic Universities in the state of California dropped abortion from their insured procedures. As Live Action News has previously reported, Planned Parenthood was a strong force behind the lobbying effort to have the state force all local entities to cover abortion. The state abortion mandate has also come under fire from local religious orders working with the poor, the needy, and immigrants. Churches and other religious institutions are also subject to California’s sweeping discrimination against pro-lifers.
According to the notice of violation, the state of California had 30 days from the January 24th notice to comply. After this, HHS could withhold federal funding from the state.
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