Restricting 'Choice': California Dictates That its Employers Cannot Refuse to Cover Elective Abortions

This "choice" thing with abortion is really the narrowest of one-way streets.

Seven robed men decided in 1973 that a woman has a "privacy" right to "choose" to take the life of a pre-born baby she is carrying, the God-given right to life of the baby be damned. But the radicals in Jerry Brown's government in the State of California have now mandated that all employers in that state, even those with religious affiliations, do not have a choice as to whether they will cover abortions in their health plans. It's funny, but certainly not in a humorous sense, how certain states' attempts to limit the practice routinely make national news, while this blatantly coercive dictate by California has barely been noticed.


The Associated Press did carry a story at its national site (a backup link is here). But it was not widely picked up. Additionally, a Google News search on "California elective abortions" (not in quotes, sorted by date, showing duplicates) returned about 55 items, almost all of which were from news outlets within the state or prolife and religious publications.

Here are excerpts from the unbylined AP item (bolds are mine throughout this post):

CALIFORNIA: INSURERS MUST COVER ELECTIVE ABORTIONS

Health insurance companies in California may not refuse to cover the cost of abortions, state insurance officials have ruled in a reversal of policy stemming from the decision by two Catholic universities to drop elective abortions from their employee health plans.

Although the federal Affordable Care Act does not compel employers to provide workers with health insurance that includes abortion coverage, the director of California's Department of Managed Health Care said in a letter to seven insurance companies on Friday that the state Constitution and a 1975 state law prohibits them from selling group plans that exclude the procedure. The law in question requires such plans to encompass all "medically necessary" care.

"Abortion is a basic health care service," department director Michelle Rouillard wrote in the letter. "All health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally."

Jesuit-run Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount University notified employees last fall that they planned to stop paying for elective abortions, but said faculty and staff members could pay for supplemental coverage that would be provided through a third party. The two schools said their insurers, Anthem Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente, had cleared the move with the state.

University employees who objected to the decision and abortion-rights groups lobbied the women' caucus of the California Legislature, which in turn asked Gov. Jerry Brown to clarify and reverse the health care department's determination.

There are at least four unsettling elements to this story beyond what California has done — beyond the fact that Jerry Brown still calls himself a Catholic, which is a joke.

First, why was abortion coverage ever allowed in the first place at these schools?

Second, how did the faculty at two Catholic colleges become so hostile to basic Catholic tenets?

Third, California is now apparently a place where who shouts the loudest gets their way instead of being a state with laws and regulations. There's no other way to interpret the fact that the "women's caucus" was able to force the reversal of a insurance company determinations originally considered perfectly legal.

Finally, the universities' responses, as noted in an August 25 San Francisco Chronicle follow-up item, are far from perfect:

Both universities issued statements saying they would follow the law, but they did not disavow future court action.

The trouble is that what California has done isn't "the law." Pro-life groups are nobly threatening to do the heavy lifting for them by invoking federal law, but the ultimate outcome isn't looking good:

Antiabortion groups are calling for legal action - and a possible cutoff of nearly $90 billion in federal funding to California - after Gov. Jerry Brown's administration told insurance companies doing business in the state Friday that their policies had to cover all abortions.

... Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, called the state's action "morally obscene" and said the universities should file religious-freedom suits. And other organizations that oppose abortion said California is violating an antiabortion provision of federal law and is at risk of losing much of its federal funding.

"Federal law prevents California from mandating that a health insurance plan include abortion coverage," the Life Legal Defense Foundation, Alliance Defending Freedom and Cardinal Newman Society said in a letter to the state Department of Managed Health Care.

They cited the Weldon amendment, enacted by Congress each year for the last decade. It requires a state to forfeit all federal funds for health, education and labor if it "subjects any ... health care entity to discrimination" because the entity "does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions."

That all sounds promising, but here's the tragic punch line:

Unless the state withdraws its decision, the groups said, they will notify the Obama administration's Department of Health and Human Services, which has sole authority to enforce the Weldon amendment.

"If HHS follows the law, they will cut off funding," said the Life Legal Defense Foundation's legal director, Catherine Short.

"If HHS follow the law?" HHS thinks that whatever it says and does is the law.

What may result from all of this is the administration dictating that abortions must be covered by all insurance plans. Unless a new case goes to the Supreme Court, this may effectively mean that its Hobby Lobby decision will be overturned by fiat.

(Note to readers: Yes, I'm aware that HHS is already attempting to overturn the Hobby Lobby ruling with new, completely phony "religious accommodation" regulations.)

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.