California Churches File Lawsuit to Fight Mandatory Abortion Funding in Health Plans

Lauretta Brown | October 19, 2015 | 3:51pm EDT
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(AP Photo)

( – Three California churches filed a lawsuit Friday against California’s Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) as part of their fight against the DMHC’s classification last year of elective abortion as a “basic health service,” mandating abortion coverage in all state health care plans with no religious exemptions.   

The California DMHC stated in an August 2014 letter to seven insurance companies that they were required to include elective abortions in their health plans with no exceptions. The letter came in response to complaints after Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount University excluded elective abortion from their employee insurance policies on religious grounds.

The letter cites California’s Constitution and the 1975 Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act, which “requires the provision of basic health care services” in justification of their abortion mandate.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, on behalf of the Foothill Church in Glendora, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in Chino, and The Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch.

The churches are suing Michelle Rouillard, the director of the DMHC, who issued the letter, and are seeking injunctive and declarative relief against the mandate.

The lawsuit states that the churches have been searching for a way to “provide health insurance coverage to their employees in a way that does not also cause them to pay for abortions,” as they believe that “abortion kills an innocent human life.”

“Because no exemption exists from the Mandate, Plaintiffs’ group health insurance plans were changed to include elective abortion coverage without their authorization and over their objections,” the lawsuit points out.

The lawsuit also charges that the DMHC “realizing that Plaintiffs and others have sincerely held religious beliefs against paying for or providing coverage for abortion,” still “encouraged the insurers to hide these changes by informing them that they may ‘omit any mention of coverage for abortion services in health plan documents.’”

Initially last year, ADF filed a complaint directly with DMHC, claiming among other things that their mandate violates federal law, namely the Hyde-Weldon Amendment which “forbids governmental bodies receiving federal funds from discriminating against those who decline to take part in abortion or abortion coverage.”

ADF and Life Legal Defense Foundation went on to file formal complaints with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services against DMHC back in October 2014. However, the lawsuit states: “To date, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights has not indicated whether it intends to enforce the Hyde-Weldon Amendment, leading Plaintiffs to file this lawsuit.”

“Elective abortions are not part of ‘basic health care,’” ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Jeremiah Galus said in a statement. “They have no business being forced into the medical coverage provided by churches that do not wish to support terminating lives due to very real, sincere, and well-known faith convictions. We hope the court will require California to follow the Constitution and respect these churches’ fundamental freedoms.”

“Because Obamacare requires health insurance coverage, and the California mandate requires abortion coverage in any health plan, these churches are truly left with no way to opt out of paying for abortions,” Galus explained.

“What’s absurd, though,” he added, “is that the same government that rightfully does not require California churches to pay for contraceptive coverage requires them to pay for elective abortion coverage. Californians should not be forced to choose between following their deepest convictions and submitting to unlawful and unnecessary government mandates.”

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