California has changed its state health insurance rules to require that churches pay for elective abortions, drawing protest from some of the largest pro-life legal teams in the nation and a formal complaint.

“Forcing a church to be party to elective abortion is one of the utmost-imaginable assaults on our most fundamental American freedoms,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Casey Mattox.

Mattox said California “is flagrantly violating the federal law that protects employers from being forced into having abortion in their health insurance plans.”

“No state can blatantly ignore federal law and think that it should continue to receive taxpayer money,” he said.

The case is just the latest in recent months against aggressive federal and state government efforts to force religious individuals and organizations to fund abortion, including through Obamacare.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a previous case that owners of some companies cannot be forced to adhere to Obamacare’s requirement that they fund abortion-causing drugs, in violation of their religious beliefs.

In the California case, seven churches filed a formal complaint Thursday with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights calling abortion “a grave moral evil” and objecting to “being morally complicit through the provision of insurance coverage for abortion to their employees.”

The complaint cites a letter from the California Department of Managed Health Care to private health care insurers declaring “all health care plans issued in California must immediately cover elective abortions.”

“The insurers were instructed to amend their policies to remove any limitations on health coverage for abortions, such as excluding coverage for ‘voluntary’ or ‘elective’ abortions or limiting coverage to ‘therapeutic’ or ‘medically necessary’ abortions,” explains the complaint, which is joined by the Life Legal Defense Foundation.

“Insurers have confirmed to some of the churches that these changes have already been made in their plans over their objections,” the letter says.

But the state refused to include an exemption for “religious employers.”

“This directive of the DMHC constitutes unlawful discrimination against a health care entity,” the letter said. “DMHC is ‘subject[ing] complainants’ ‘health insurance plan’ ‘to discrimination,’ by denying its approval of the plan that omitted elective abortions, solely ‘on the basis that the [plan] does not … provide coverage of … abortions.'”

Such discrimination would disqualify the state from federal funds, the letter contended.

“The need to remedy this discrimination is urgent because it is immediately forcing complainants to offer their employees a health plan that includes elective abortions,” the letter said.

A previous letter to the state about the issue brought only a response from DMHC director Shelley Rouillard that re-stated the agency’s demands.

LLDF Legal Director Catherine Short said the DMHC “created this abortion mandate in response to political pressure from the abortion lobby.”

“DMHC would have us believe that, while the legislature exempted these churches from the state’s contraceptive coverage mandate, it nonetheless intended to force them to cover all abortions under the rubric of ‘basic health care,” Short said.

“This move was a pure power play, and we trust that the Department of Health and Human Services will take the necessary steps to bring the state into compliance with federal law.”



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