On June 30, the Supreme Court announced its momentous decision to protect Hobby Lobby and other for-profit, closely held corporations from paying for abortifacients in their employee insurance plans. Noting that companies don’t exist unless persons own and run them, the judges deemed corporations to be persons, and they cited the protection persons enjoy under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
It appears the California Department of Managed Health Care has had its head in the sand (some would say elsewhere) and is oblivious to these facts as well as decades-old conscience protection law.
Two California Catholic universities, Loyola Marymount and Santa Clara, offered insurance plans that didn’t cover abortion. On August 22, the Department of Managed Care (DMHC) revoked approval of their plans and announced that all insurance companies had to begin covering elective abortions, no opt-out allowed. That same day, Life Legal Defense Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter to the DMHC warning that the new edict violated federal conscience protection law. On September 8 the DMHC responded that the state views abortion and maternity services neutrally, viewing both as “basic health care.”
In other words, too bad; California sees no difference between killing a child before birth and caring for one during and after birth.
Two days later the legal defense groups filed a formal complaint with Health and Human Services. On October 9, they filed a second complaint on behalf of seven churches and one affiliated school.
This battle to protect the conscience rights of Americans relating to abortion has raged for decades. Just two months after Roe v. Wade, Congress passed the Church Amendment so doctors, nurses and hospitals can’t be forced to do abortions; only two legislators voted against it. In 2004 came the Weldon Amendment. It protects health care workers, hospitals and other health care entities—including insurance companies—from being forced by state or federal government (that’s you, California) to “perform, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” Weldon doesn’t stand alone; it’s a rider tucked into annual budget bills funding Health and Human Services.
In this war for life, we sometimes advance and sometimes have to regroup. In 2008, George W. Bush approved a new regulation to strengthen conscience protection regarding abortion and broaden protection in light of existing controversies such as cloning and assisted suicide as well as technologies yet to emerge. Unfortunately, in one of his first acts as president, Barack Obama struck down the new regulation. And as was widely reported just last month, the Government Accountability Office proved that the Obama administration has literally ignored its promise to honor existing conscience protection law in the Affordable Care Act exchanges.
Maybe the administration’s disdain for the law emboldened the California Department of Managed Health Care, which apparently believes killing the unborn trumps all, law or no law.
So here we are again, fighting for protection once considered so vital to freedom that it was first in line in the Bill of Rights. The fact that a law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was even necessary tells us just how far we’ve come. And once again we’re fighting for life—the first of rights once deemed so critical they were recognized as gifts of a Creator, beyond human authority to give or take away.
In wartime, each country tries to deceive the other about invasion plans, objectives and troop strength. Propaganda warns of dire consequences for those who resist. So we see pro-abortion activists shouting hysterically about a conservative “war on women.” But behind such distracting hysteria, they’re working hard to defeat their real enemies: life and religious freedom.
You can find more information about pro-life legislation on our website at lifeissues.org/Pro-Life_Legislation.html.