February 7, 2016
A San Diego-area church is suing the state of California for forcing it to pay for elective abortions on its health insurance plans.
The suit filed Thursday by Skyline Wesleyan Church follows a similar claim filed in federal court last October on behalf of three other California churches.
But forced abortion coverage is not only happening in California.
The Catholic charity group Little Sisters of the Poor has its own legal battle against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, trying to avoid having to pay for abortion coverage for its employees in Colorado.
The Little Sisters filed a petition to the Supreme Court, and their case was granted on Nov. 6, 2015, along with six other cases brought by other nonprofit religious ministries. Right now, they are waiting for the court to hear their case and decide the issue.
Most of these government “mandates” came compliments of Obamacare.
The California church cites violations of its rights and freedoms under California’s Administrative Procedures Act and both the federal and state constitutions.
“Churches should not be forced to pay for the killing of innocent human life,” said Erik Stanley, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, or ADF, which is representing the church. “The government has no right to demand that church health insurance plans include coverage for elective abortions – something that violates the most sincerely held religious beliefs of this church and nearly all churches throughout the state.”
California is violating its own laws and Constitution, as well as the U.S. Constitution, “by strong-arming churches into having this coverage in their plans,” Stanley said.
Attached to the lawsuit is a letter sent by state officials to Wade Overgaard, senior vice president of California operations for Kaiser Permanente Health Plan Inc. It stated:
The purpose of this letter is to remind plans that the Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act of 1975 (Knox Keene Act) requires the provision of basic health care services and the California Constitution prohibits health plans from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy. Thus, all health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally.
ADF lawyers filed the lawsuit in the California Superior Court for the County of San Diego on behalf of Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa.
In 2014, ADF and Life Legal Defense Foundation filed formal complaints with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services against the California DMHC regarding the state’s mandate and its violation of federal conscience law. Those came on the heels of a complaint filed directly with DMHC, which responded by affirming its decision to force all plans to cover all abortions without any explanation as to how that decision squared with state and federal law.
Because Obamacare requires employers to provide health insurance coverage, the California mandate has left churches with no way to opt out of paying for abortions, said ADF Legal Counsel Jeremiah Galus.
“California has forced abortion coverage into churches’ health insurance plans without their knowledge or approval,” said Galus. “Californians should not be forced to choose between following their deepest convictions and submitting to unlawful and unnecessary government mandates.”
The complaint states that California based its mandate on a requirement in state law “that employer health plans cover ‘basic health care services.’” Before the mandate was implemented, however, the state had not interpreted “basic health care services” to include voluntary and elective abortions. In fact, existing law and regulations define “basic health care services” to include services only “where medically necessary,” the suit claims.
Although California Department of Managed Healthcare and its director “knew that employers like Skyline Church have sincerely held religious beliefs against paying for or facilitating abortions,” the complaint continues, the two “Defendants nevertheless required that any group health insurance plan sold to them cover abortions, including voluntary and elective ones. Thus, by issuing the mandate, defendants caused Skyline’s group health plan to include coverage for voluntary and elective abortions without its knowledge and in violation of its religious beliefs.”
Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund attorney Charles LiMandri, one of more than 3,000 private attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel in the case on behalf of the church.
Alliance Defending Freedom is a Scottsdale, Arizona-based nonprofit that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith in American society.