California could lose federal funds for requiring employer health plans to cover elective abortion, federal officials have said.
But the Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit, the Catholic consecrated women whose legal complaint helped trigger the threat, only want their voice heard and their conscience clear.
“They have a ministry that works closely with the farm worker community and with immigrants. They’re wonderful women,” Kevin Eckery, a spokesman for the California Catholic Conference, told Catholic News Agency (CNA) Feb. 18. “They just didn’t understand why their conscience rights were being ignored, so they took action for themselves and others.”
The Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit are consecrated women who live among the poor and needy in inner city and rural areas and serve them through activities like teaching religion classes and working with destitute Spanish-speaking immigrants.
Their June 26, 2017 complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights alleged that California’s 2014 rules mandating abortion coverage in health plans burdened their conscience rights and compelled them to fund “the practice of abortion on demand for other plan participants,” despite their Catholic beliefs that direct abortion is “gravely contrary to the moral law.”
The Weldon Amendment, first passed in 2005, bars federal funds to state or local governments if they discriminate against institutional or individual healthcare entities, including health insurance plans, that decline to pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for, abortions.
On Jan. 24, federal officials sided with the Guadalupanas and another complainant, the Skyline Wesleyan Church of La Mesa. The HHS Office of Civil Rights estimated that the state mandate wrongly affected at least 35 employer groups serving over 28,000 enrollees, including 13 groups that met California’s definition of “religious employer.”
In a document known as a notice of violation, the Office of Civil Rights said that California’s Department of Managed Health Care ignored its specific request to confirm or deny whether it would align its practices to the Weldon Amendment, and instead issued a response that “confirms its non-compliance.” The office gave California 30 days from Jan. 24 to agree to comply with the law or face limits on federal HHS funds….
The federal action against California was announced Jan. 24.
Some California officials, like Gov. Gavin Newsom, were defiant in response.
“Despite a federal opinion four years ago confirming California’s compliance with the Weldon Amendment, the Trump Administration would rather rile up its base to score cheap political points and risk access to care for millions than do what’s right… California will continue to protect a woman’s right to choose, and we won’t back down from defending reproductive freedom for everybody — full stop….”
The above comes from a Feb. 19 story on the Catholic News Agency.