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Trump administration takes action against California for requiring abortion coverage in insurance plans

'We are putting California on notice'

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration is taking aim at a California requirement that insurance providers cover elective abortions.

In a formal notice announced on Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) warned the Golden State that its policy requiring insurance plans to cover abortions violates federal law and that the state could lose federal funding if it continues to enforce it.

The federal law that HHS bases the action on is called the Weldon Amendment, which is a spending measure that prohibits states and other government entities from discriminating against health care providers that do not "provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions" if they wish to receive federal funding.

In 2014, the state of California ordered insurance companies operating in the state to include elective abortion procedures. Two years later in 2016, the Obama administration said that the move didn't violate federal religious liberty laws, but that didn't stop the complaints about the law's implications. In November 2019, the California Supreme Court dismissed a religious freedom-based challenge against the mandate brought by a group of Catholic missionaries.

The department concludes that "California violated the Weldon Amendment by mandating that California health care plan issuers cover elective abortion in each plan product, and continues to violate federal law by continuing to require objecting health care entities protected by the Weldon Amendment to cover elective abortion."

The HHS statement says that California has 30 days to give "sufficient assurance that California will come into compliance with federal law" before the administration moves forward with actions that "may ultimately result in limitations on continued receipt of certain HHS funds."

"No one in America should be forced to pay for or cover other people's abortions," said Roger Severino, who serves as the director of the Office of Civil Rights at HHS. "We are putting California on notice that it must stop forcing people of good will to subsidize the taking of human life, not only because it's the moral thing to do, but because it's the law."

The announcement was made Friday morning and coincided with the 47th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., at which Trump will be the first U.S. president to address the pro-life gathering in person.

California's Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom fired back at the administration's warning in a statement reported at The Hill, in which he said that his state "will continue to protect a woman's right to choose, and we won't back down from defending reproductive freedom for everybody — full stop."

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