The following comes from a July 9 Angelus post:
Churches and other organizations in California will be forced to buy insurance plans that cover abortions due to the Obama administration’s clear misinterpretation of a pro-life law, said prominent pro-life thinker Richard Doerflinger.
In an essay, Doerflinger argued that the Obama administration “effectively overturned” the pro-life law when it failed to act against a California rule that required abortion coverage in churches’ health insurance policies – a rule that he said “egregiously violates” the Weldon Amendment.
In August 2014, California’s Department of Managed Health Care ruled that abortion coverage is mandatory in California health plans. The ruling drew several legal complaints from the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Life Legal Defense Foundation and the Catholic Bishops of California. They complained to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Human Rights that the rule violated the Weldon Amendment. Jocelyn Samuels, director of the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, rejected the complaints in a June 22 letter. She said the complaining entities were not “health care entities” opposed to abortion and said that the seven health insurance firms involved themselves have no objections to providing abortion coverage.
The Weldon Amendment has repeatedly been enacted without change by Congress when either major party has been in control. Doerflinger said the administration’s move contradicted President Barack Obama’s stated support for the amendment and his signing of the law every year since 2009.
“He and his administration have repeatedly assured Congress and pro-life Americans that they support the law and would fully enforce it through HHS’s Office for Civil Rights,” he said. “Those assurances have now proven empty.”
He emphasized that the Weldon amendment bars discrimination against a health plan that excludes abortion. The state policy forcing insurance companies to sell only health plans that include abortion is “the most obvious form of discrimination possible” against such plans.
Doerflinger recounted the Weldon Amendment’s basis in an earlier law, the 1996 Coats-Snow Amendment barring government discrimination against medical residents and residency programs that decline to train in abortion procedures. That amendment was intended to protect these programs regardless of whether they refused to train on religious, moral or practical grounds.
The Obama administration’s newly restrictive interpretation may have a “frightening consequence,” Doerflinger warned. It may start coercing residency programs that have no religious affiliation to begin requiring training in abortion. For Doerflinger, the president’s professed support for conscience laws means he should sign the Conscience Protection Act, proposed legislation that would address “the alleged ambiguities and loopholes the administration claims to find in the Weldon amendment.” “If the president supports federal conscience laws on abortion and wants them to be enforceable, as he has claimed, he need only say he would sign the Conscience Protection Act into law,” the pro-life leader wrote.