It turns out—pretty far.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys recently filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Managed Health Care for forcing a church to pay for elective abortions in their health insurance plans. This is similar to a federal lawsuit ADF filed in October of last year on behalf of three other California churches.
On its face, it looks like a fairly extreme move by the government, but after more inspection, it's clear that this law is an outright violation of federal law. The Hyde-Weldon Amendment is a federal conscience protection that prevents governments from discriminating against a health care entity (in this case, the churches' insurance plans) because it does not "provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions."
So what possible reason could the government have for forcing houses of worship to violate their sincerely held beliefs about the sanctity of life by paying for elective abortions?
In letters to different health plan groups, which are attached to the lawsuit, state officials wrote:
"The Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act of 1975 (Knox Keene Act) requires the provision of basic health care services and the California Constitution prohibits health plans from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy. Thus, all health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally.”
This is a departure from how DMHC previously treated elective abortions, which as a voluntary procedure should not be considered basic health care. In fact, according to the lawsuit, existing law and regulations in California define "basic health care services" to include 19 services only "where medically necessary."
I think we can all agree that elective abortion—by definition—is not a medical necessity. In fact, taking any medical action that will end the life of a baby in the womb is very rarely required to save the life of the mother.
But California's misguided abortion mandates don't stop there. The California Senate recently passed a bill that forces pro-life pregnancy centers in the state to actually promote abortion.
Forcing organizations that exist to offer women hope and support so that they can bring life into the world to hand out information about where they can have an abortion is absolutely ludicrous. But this law is even more inexplicable because similar laws have already been deemed unconstitutional. The government is basically compelling these centers to communicate a message with which they disagree—that is a blatant violation of freedom of speech.
"I don’t want to put up a sign telling you where you can go for an abortion,” Josh McClure, executive director of East County Pregnancy Care Clinic in El Cajon, CA, told the New York Times. McClure's clinic is a plaintiff in one of several legal challenges. “The sign is not up here now because it’s unconstitutional."
The churches and pro-life pregnancy centers involved in these lawsuits are not alone in their thoughts about abortion. Recent polls show that more than 80% of Americans believe there should be restrictions on abortion—80 percent! And yet, California is attempting to make abortion as common as getting a cavity filled and force Americans to treat it as such.
If the state really wants to use "discrimination" as a talking point, it should carefully consider its actions in coercing churches and pro-life pregnancy centers to be complicit in this horrific act, and instead respect the conscience rights of all of its citizens.
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