California Bishops File Complaint Against State Abortion Coverage Mandate, Gender Selection

A pro-life activist with a group celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling striking down a Massachusetts law that mandated a protective buffer zone around abortion clinics, holds up a sign reading "Courageously Abolishing Abortion," outside the Court in Washington, June 26, 2014. On a 9-0 vote, the court said the 2007 law violated the freedom of speech rights of anti-abortion protesters under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in preventing them from standing on the sidewalk and speaking to people entering the clinics. |

The California Catholic Conference filed a complaint Wednesday against the state's mandate that Catholic institutions cover all forms of voluntary direct abortion, including late-term and gender selection, stating that defending the sanctity of life is essential to Catholic beliefs.

"Catholic beliefs about life and human dignity animate and shape our Catholic ministries," said Bishop Robert McElroy, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and chair of the Institutional Concerns Committee of the California Catholic Conference.

"It's why we oppose abortion, but it is also why Catholic schools provide education, Catholic hospitals care for the poor and vulnerable and why Catholic social services provide assistance to people and families in need. It goes to the core of our moral beliefs."

The compliant, sent earlier this week to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, cites federal civil rights violations by the California Department of Managed Health Care concerning the abortion coverage.

It explains that an administrative directive issued in August to eight major health insurance plans dictates them to amend their health plan policies to remove any exclusions to the abortion coverage, arguing that abortions are "basic health care" and need to be included in insurance packages.

"This is a coercive and discriminatory action by the state of California," McElroy added. "This demand by the state was directly targeted at Catholic institutions like Santa Clara University, Loyola Marymount University, along with other California employers and citizens. It is a flagrant violation of their civil rights and deepest moral convictions, and is government coercion of the worst kind."

The complaint further states that this is the first time health plans in any state have been required to cover all abortions, even late-term abortions.

"This action effectively precludes California citizens and employers, who conscientiously believe that abortion destroys an unborn human life, from exercising their freedom to purchase a health plan that excludes coverage for abortions in which the life or health of the mother is not actually at risk," the complaint reads.

It further accuses abortion advocacy groups of inflicting pressure on the DMHC to take this action.

Loyola Marymount University and Santa Clara University are two major Roman Catholic institutions that were told they must pay for abortions as part of their insurance policies in August.

"… [T]he California Constitution prohibits health plans from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy. Thus, all health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally," the DMHC directive read.

Both the Life Legal Defense Foundation and the Alliance Defending Freedom have sent out another letter protesting the change.

"DMHC cannot deny approval to or otherwise penalize a health insurance plan for failing to provide coverage of some or all abortions and remain in compliance with the Weldon Amendment," the letter from the pro-life groups read.

"In its failed lawsuit against the amendment, California admitted that all of its departments are subject to the amendment due to some of those departments receiving over $40 billion in federal funds for programs in the areas of education, health, and employment."

A separate report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in September showed that the the Affordable Care Act, also called "Obamacare," is providing abortion coverage, contrary to claims of some proponents of the health care law.

It found that 15 of 18 insurers providing qualified health plans ignore rules stating that the ACA should only cover abortions in the event of rape, incest, or health of the mother.

"Of the 18 issuers offering QHPs that cover non-excepted abortion services from which we obtained information, all but three issuers indicated that the benefit is not subject to any restrictions, limitations, or exclusions," the GAO report said.

"These 18 issuers offered a total of 246 unique QHPs that covered non-excepted abortion services — or 24 percent of the total number of QHPs covering non-excepted abortion services in the 28 states with no laws restricting the circumstances under which abortion services can be provided as a covered benefit."

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