The Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced on Wednesday that it had rejected a conscience-based challenge from a group of Catholic schools objecting to a California regulation requiring all health insurance plans within the state to cover abortions.
A 1975 California law requires all employers to provide insurance coverage for “medically necessary” procedures. That state has long held that abortions are within the scope of medical necessity.Two Catholic universities in California – Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount University, both Jesuit institutions – did not provide abortion in connection with their healthcare coverage, claiming that such a service is incompatible with their Catholic identity. In 2014, state officials informed insurers across the state that they were legally bound to provide abortion coverage in all insurance plans. (RELATED: Supreme Court Sends Obamacare Contraceptive Case Back To Lower Courts For Compromise)
“This is a coercive and discriminatory action by the State of California,” Bishop Robert McElroy said at the time.
The universities appealed to the Office for Civil Rights at HHS, seeking an exemption to the California law under the 2005 Weldon Amendment, which forbids federal agencies from discriminating against healthcare entities that do not provide referrals or coverage for abortion.
HHS announced they rejected the claim, saying a health insurance provider could not be considered a “healthcare entity” in the context of the act.
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