LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) — The Trump administration Friday threatened to withhold federal funding to California over state laws which requires that all private health insurance plans cover elective abortions.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced that it has notified California that the state is in “violation of federal conscience laws.”READ MORE: Prince Philip Laid To Rest As England Mourns; Prince Harry Attends Funeral
The announcement, timed to coincide with Friday’s anti-abortion March for Life in Washington D.C., came hours before President Trump addressed the marchers in person, becoming the first president to do so.
“Every life brings love into this world, every child brings joy to a family, every person is worth protecting,” Trump said, prompting loud cheers from the many thousands attending the march.
Beginning in August of 2014, the California Department of Managed Health Care has required that all private health insurance plans in the state cover elective abortion services.
Friday’s order gives California 30 days to reverse this requirement. If it does not do so, then the Trump administration could withhold billions of dollars in HHS funding to the state.
“OCR requests that California inform OCR, within thirty days, whether California will continue to enforce its requirement that all health plans cover elective abortions, or whether it will agree to take corrective action and remedy the effect of its discriminatory conduct,” HHS wrote in a news release.
HHS says its notice to California stemmed from two complaints: one from the Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit, a Catholic order of nuns, and a second from the Skyline Church, a megachurch in San Diego metro area.
HHS noted that prior to the California requirement enforced back in 2014, approximately 28,000 Californians were under plans that did not cover elective abortions.READ MORE: Man Apologizes To Rams Star Aaron Donald For Mistakenly Accusing Him In Pittsburgh Assault
HHS alleges that California’s abortion requirement violates the federal law known as the Weldon amendment. That law bars federal health care funding from being provided to states or entities that practice “discrimination” against a health care organization on the basis that it “does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.”
“If states receive federal funds … they cannot discriminate against a health plan that declines to cover abortions,” OCR Director Roger Severino told reporters Friday.
Severino did not disclose exactly how much federal funding would be withheld. California receives billions of federal dollars for community health centers, Medicaid health insurance for low-income people and basic public health activities, like educating parents about vaccines.
“Our goal is to seek compliance, and we are going to give them 30 days, so we do not have to cross that bridge,” Severino said.
OCR has traditionally mainly handled complaints about privacy violations. Under Trump, it added a new division to handle cases of alleged discrimination on the basis of religious or moral scruples.
Federal law has long barred the use of taxpayer money to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman.
“Despite a federal opinion four years ago confirming California’s compliance with the Weldon amendment, the Trump administration would rather rile up its base to score cheap political points and risk access to care for millions than do what’s right,” Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement Friday. “California will continue to protect a woman’s right to choose, and we won’t back down from defending reproductive freedom for everybody.”MORE NEWS: Boy Shot, Killed In Cudahy; Gunman At Large
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