LifeNews.com is reporting on the ruling, handed down by the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is in response to a complaint filed by various churches over a decision by California’s Department of Managed Health Care (CDMHC) to force all employers to pay for elective abortions in their health insurance plans.
The problem began in 2014 when the CDMHC reclassified abortion as a “basic health service” under the Affordable Care Act and ordered all insurance plans in the state, including those used by churches, to begin covering the procedure.
In response, churches filed a lawsuit against the regulation last October which has been moving through the courts.
In their complaint, the churches urged the Obama administration to uphold the Weldon Amendment, which is a federal law protecting conscience rights; however the Office of Civil Rights ruled on Tuesday that there was no violation of the amendment and is closing its investigation of the complaint without further action.
Opponents of the decision say it is based on a flawed reading of the Weldon amendment.
“They argue that the Weldon amendment only protects health insurance plans, and not the purchasers of such plans, and state that the insurance companies have not complained,” Life News reports. “To say that a previously existing plan that excluded abortion must be discontinued is discriminatory against the life-affirming abortion-free plan. Whether the insurance company objects or not, the mandate is discriminatory.”
In addition, the Office of Civil Rights claims that the insurance companies do not hold a religious or moral objection to covering abortion; however, as opponents point out, the amendment is not limited to religious or moral objections.
“It simply states no funds may be made available to a government that subjects a health care entity (health plan in this case) to discrimination on the basis that the entity ‘does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortion’,” Life News reports.
“The Obama Administration is once again making a mockery of the law, and this time in the most unimaginable way,” says Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Casey Mattox.
“Churches should never be forced to cover elective abortion in their insurance plans, and for ten years the Weldon Amendment has protected the right to have plans that do not include coverage for abortion-on-demand. But the state of California has ordered every insurer, even those insuring churches, to cover elective abortions in blatant violation of the law.
"The Obama Administration’s refusal to enforce this law continues its pattern of enforcing laws it wants to enforce, refusing to enforce others, and inventing new interpretations of others out of whole cloth. We will continue to defend churches from this clear violation of the First Amendment and federal law and call on Congress to hold the Department of Health and Human Services accountable.”
The decision has infuriated pro-life leaders in Congress.
“Nearly two years after California imposed its draconian mandate that requires all insurance companies to pay for abortion the Obama Administration has reached a new low — reinterpreting the Weldon amendment to allow the mandate to continue,” said Rep. Chris Smith, Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus in comments to LifeNews.com. “This means that Californians, including churches, will continue to be forced to pay for elective abortions in their insurance plans.”
Smith is calling upon lawmakers to take the enforcement of current conscience protections out of the hands of the Obama administration and put it into the hands of the Congress.
“Congress needs to enact legislation so churches and other victims have a ‘private right of action’, so they can have their day in court,” Smith said.
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