Churches Suing California Over Abortion Coverage Mandate
Three California churches have filed a complaint against the state over a recently implemented health insurance provision mandating the coverage of elective abortions.
Foothill Church of Glendora, Calvary Chapel in Chino, and Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch filed the complaint last Friday in U.S. District Court. The suit, filed against the director of the California Department of Managed Health Care, seeks injunctive relief from the abortion mandate.
"Plaintiffs believe, as a matter of religious conviction, that it would be sinful and immoral for them intentionally to pay for, participate in, facilitate, or otherwise support abortion, which they believe destroys innocent human life," reads the complaint.
"Because federal law requires plaintiffs to offer health insurance to their employees, the mandate illegally and unconstitutionally coerces plaintiffs to violate their religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines and penalties."
In August 2014, the DMHC sent an official letter to Anthem Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente stating that insurance companies in California could not restrict abortion coverage.
In their letter, DMHC stated that "it erroneously approved or did not object to such discriminatory language in some evidence of coverage filings."
"The purpose of this letter is to remind plans that the Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act of 1975 (Knox Keene Act) requires the provision of basic healthcare services," read the DMHC letter.
"… [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."
DMHC's declaration that abortion coverage cannot be limited came in response to two Catholic academic institutions, Loyola Marymount University and Santa Clara University, seeking a reprieve for their insurance coverage regarding abortion.
In response to the announcement, the Life Legal Defense Foundation and the Alliance Defending Freedom sent the DMHC a letter of protest to 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," read the letter.
"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."
The ADF is representing the three churches in their complaint. ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley said in a statement last week that congregations "should not be forced to pay for the killing of innocent human life."
"The government has no right to demand that church health insurance plans contain coverage for abortion – something that violates these churches' most sincerely held religious beliefs. California is violating the Constitution by strong-arming churches into having this coverage in their plans," Stanley said.