California Forces Catholic Universities to Cover Employees’ Abortions

When it comes to forcing employers to violate their religious convictions when offering employee health insurance, the Barack Obama administration has nothing on the Jerry Brown administration. The U.S.73953b613ab810d00e410cf7a0eefa2a_M president’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) merely tried to coerce employers into paying for contraceptives that might cause abortions. Meanwhile, the California governor’s Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC), having previously approved health insurance policies that deny coverage for elective abortions, has now declared that all policies in the Golden State must cover all abortions regardless of the wishes of the policyholder.

Last year, Santa Clara University in Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in Los Angeles, both Jesuit institutions, announced that they would no longer include coverage of elective abortions in their employee health plans but would allow employees to purchase such coverage through a third party. LMU instituted the policy this past January, and Santa Clara University was set to follow suit at the start of 2015.

According to the Associated Press, “The two schools said their insurers, Anthem Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente, had cleared the move with the state.” Indeed, as the Cardinal Newman Society, a Catholic-education organization, discovered, both insurers obtained permission from the DMHC — Anthem in 2008, Kaiser in 2012 — to offer plans excluding coverage for elective abortions.

The universities’ new policy caused an uproar among their faculty and staff, many of whom, despite their employment at explicitly Catholic institutions, not only disagree with the church’s official position on abortion (that it is a great evil) but also believe that someone else — in this case, their employer — should be forced to pay for their abortions. The disgruntled employees, with the assistance of pro-abortion organizations such as the National Health Law Program, Planned Parenthood, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “lobbied the women’s caucus of the California Legislature, which in turn asked Gov. Jerry Brown to clarify and reverse the health care department’s determination,” reported the AP.

Brown’s DMHC director, Michelle Rouillard, obliged, sending letters to seven insurance companies ordering them to “amend current health plan documents to remove discriminatory coverage exclusions and limitations.”

“These limitations or exclusions include, but are not limited to, any exclusion of coverage for ‘voluntary’ or ‘elective’ abortions and/or any limitation of coverage to only ‘therapeutic’ or ‘medically necessary’ abortions,” she explained.

Rouillard wrote that her department “has concluded that it erroneously approved or did not object to such discriminatory language” in the past. Such exclusions, she argued, are impermissible under both the California constitution, which “prohibits health plans from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy,” and the state’s 1975 Knox-Keene Act, which “requires the provision of basic health care services,” which include abortion. (Since “abortion is a basic health service,” insurers are free to deceive their customers about its inclusion in their policies by “omit[ting] any mention of coverage for abortion services in health plan documents,” she added.)

“Several” faculty members at Santa Clara University celebrated the DMHC’s decision, the San Jose Mercury News reported. Some of these professors also displayed their ignorance of the difference between being permitted to obtain an abortion and forcing someone else to pay for it.

“I’m very grateful to the Department of Managed Health Care for reaffirming a woman’s right to choose,” American History professor Nancy Unger, a professing Catholic, told the paper. “This is not just confirming and clarifying that this is a right we have, but by having comprehensive health insurance, it includes a woman’s right to have an abortion without any qualifiers.”

Likewise, associate law professor Stephen Diamond, who resigned from the school’s ethics center over the new policy, told the Mercury News that the DMHC’s reversal is “an important affirmation of a woman’s right to choose, and of the importance of the values of shared governance on a campus like ours.”

Catholics who take the church’s teaching on abortion seriously were, by contrast, aghast at the decision. Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, called the finding “morally obscene.”

Written by:   of THE NEW AMERICAN where you can read more.

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