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Churches in California Battle State Gov't After Being Forced to Cover 'Elective Abortion

"They don't have to provide contraception, but they have to provide abortion."

A portion of one of the letters that California recently sent to health care providers(California)

A recent regulatory change in California now requires all employer health plans in the state — including those offered by churches and faith-based organizations — to cover elective abortions, according to a conservative legal firm.

Photo credit: Shutterstock  Photo credit: Shutterstock

Casey Mattox, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, told TheBlaze Thursday that the regulatory amendment requiring abortion coverage was made by California's Department of Managed Health Care.

The abortion policy immediately took effect August 22, with the government giving 90 additional days for the language in health care plans to officially change, according to state documents.

Mattox explained this week in a story for The Federalist that the change resulted from "the insistence of the American Civil Liberties Union," with California officials subsequently deciding that elective abortion now falls under "basic health services" in the state.

But Mattox told TheBlaze that this regulatory situation is curious, as churches are now exempt from providing contraception, but not abortion.

"Churches are exempt from both state and federal … mandates," he said. "They don't have to provide contraception, but they have to provide abortion."

Here's an example of one of the letters that Kaiser Permanente, a California health care company, reportedly sent to a church regarding the recent health care change:

I want to formally share with you that on August 22, 2014, the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) notified Kaiser Permanente and other affected health plans in writing regarding group contracts that exclude ‘voluntary termination of pregnancy.’

This letter made clear that the DMHC considered health care services related to the termination of pregnancies – whether or not a voluntary termination – a medically necessary basic health care service for which all health care services plans must provide coverage under the Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act.  You may recall that at the request of some employer groups with religious affiliations, Kaiser Permanente submitted a regulatory filing in May 2012 properly notifying the DMHC of a benefit plan option that excluded coverage of voluntary terminations of pregnancies. The DMHC did not object to this filing, permitting Kaiser Permanente to offer such a coverage contract to large group purchasers that requested it. The DMHC acknowledged that it previously permitted these contract exclusions, but now is requiring health care service plans to provide coverage of all terminations of pregnancies, effective immediately.  To that end, the DMHC requires Kaiser Permanente and similar health care service plans to initiate steps to modify their plan contracts accordingly.

Effective August 22, Kaiser Permanente will comply with this regulatory mandate.

As a result of this letter and others like it, the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is known for fighting religious freedom battles across the nation, and the Life Legal Defense Foundation, a pro-life group, have intervened to ask the federal government to step in and stop California's abortion mandate.

"What we have at this point is an administrationve complaint filed with the Office for Civil Rights for [Health and Human Services]," Mattox said. "We're asking the federal HHS to enforce federal law against California."

Read a copy of the complaint here.

The attorney said that states like California that receive federal funding are prohibited from discriminating against a health care plan that doesn't offer abortion coverage.

And if the federal government doesn't step in stop the abortion regulation, Mattox said a lawsuit could follow.

"If the Obama administration is going to ignore the federal law that they are responsible for enforcing, then we would have to take action in court to make sure these churches are protected," he said.

Mattox encouraged California churches and organizations that oppose the regulation to contact their insurers and let them know where they stand.

A portion of one of the letters that California recently sent to health care providers(California) A portion of one of the letters that California recently sent to health care providers(California)

Read more about California's abortion policies and see the rest of the letters to insurers here.

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