HHS Forces Churches to Pay for Abortion Coverage

This week, Life Legal received a letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notifying us that religious employers must provide insurance coverage for elective abortions through the third trimester of pregnancy.

In 2014, Life Legal filed a complaint with HHS after the California Department of Managed Health Care notified California insurance providers that they could not offer insurance policies that did not include coverage that paid for abortion. Our complaint was based on the Weldon Amendment, which provides that federal funds cannot be made available to any government program if that program subjects a “heatlh care entity” to discrimination because it refuses to provide or pay for abortions.

The HHS’ Office of Civil Rights at HHS argues that the Weldon Amendment does not apply to entities that purchase health care coverage, but only to the insurance providers themselves.

However, the purpose of the Weldon Amendment was to ensure that no federal funds be used to provide or pay for abortion. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2009, employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees are required by law to provide health insurance coverage for their employees. In California, religious employers, including churches, schools, universities, and faith-based non-profit organizations, are now forced to pay for health insurance policies that cover elective abortions—even late term abortions, which are legal in the State.

The HHS ruling is a clear violation of the intent of the Weldon Amendment as well as the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from passing laws that interfere with the exercise of religion. Religious organizations now find themselves in the untenable position of complying with California’s abortion coverage mandate and materially contributing to the holocaust of the unborn or facing crippling penalties because they choose to abide by their deeply-held belief that paying someone to take an innocent human life is morally reprehensible.

Ironically, many religious organizations do not have to provide coverage for birth control and certain abortifacients under the Affordable Care Act, yet they are forced to provide coverage for abortion procedures in California because of the draconian ruling issue by the Department of Managed Health Care and confirmed by HHS.

Contact the HHS Office for Civil Rights at (800) 368-1019 to object to the ruling.

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Read Katie Short’s article about the abortion coverage mandate for California churches.

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