California Steamin’: HHS Gives Abortion Rule a Pass

Barb Wire

The Obama administration is too busy violating the law to punish others for doing the same! Unfortunately, Californians are bearing the brunt of that problem in their battle over taxpayer-funded abortion. Since 2014, the Golden State’s health department has been strong-arming employers into funding the killing of innocent unborn children through their local insurance exchange. Instead of exempting churches and others with strong religious convictions, California is forcing them to finance a dark business in direct defiance of their faith!

While the state’s policy is a big violation of federal law, the Obama administration has no interest in enforcing it. That much was made clear this week, when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responded to complaints from Christian groups in a crisis its mandate helped create. People like FRC Watchman Pastor Jack Hibbs fired off letters to HHS arguing that their state was violating a federal law called the Weldon Amendment, which protects health care entities from being punished if they refuse to cover abortion.

After consulting with its Office of Civil Rights, HHS officials waved off the accusations, insisting that California wasn’t guilty of any wrongdoing. In this case, the Obama team (the same one that’s been hauled into court for forcing Catholic nuns and other religious groups to swallow their religious objections over similar coverage) did what it always does: rewrote the law to suit its agenda. Instead of reading the plain language of the Amendment, the Office of Civil Rights took great liberties with the Weldon Amendment text so that they can let California off the hook for steamrolling pro-lifers. HHS argued that the Weldon Amendment doesn’t apply to employers or individuals — only “health care entities.”

But the actual language begs to differ. It says funds cannot be made available to governments (including states) that subject a health care entity (including health care plans) to discrimination on the basis that they do not provide coverage for abortion. Our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom are representing some of the churches in their fight against the state and its HHS apologists. As attorney Casey Mattox says:

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“The Obama administration is once again making a mockery of the law, and this time in the most unimaginable way. 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.”

If the Obama administration continues to play the crooked referee, then Mattox is right. It’s time for the House and Senate to step in and defend these Californians’ rights. Fortunately for us, there’s a bill designed to do exactly that in Rep. John Fleming’s (R-La.) Conscience Protection Act (H.R. 4828). “Today’s decision, perhaps more than ever, reveals why Congress must act immediately to pass my bill,” Fleming told reporters. “The administration is hell bent on forcing Americans to accept, without recourse, their worldview — and it’s time to push back on these brazen attacks to liberty.” You can help! Contact your representative and ask him or her to sponsor H.R. 4828!

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Tony Perkins
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law. (Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)

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