The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has decided to uphold the California Department of Managed Health Care’s 2014 mandate that health care providers must include elective abortion coverage in all their plans. Previously, several health insurance companies in California had provided plans exempting these services for customers with religious objections, including churches and religiously-affiliated schools.
The statement released by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) under the HHS rejected complaints that the California ruling violated the Weldon Amendment, which protects health care providers from being compelled to provide abortions. The amendment refuses to fund government programs that discriminate “on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” The definition of health care entity includes those directly providing the services, such as doctors, hospitals, and insurers. In response to the challenge, the OCR has determined that only the religious objections of those entities must be respected, not religious objections of their customers. The OCR statement points out that none of the health care providers had religious objections, so California can legally compel them to provide abortion services in their insurance plans. (more…)