- - Thursday, October 23, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

California has been liberalism’s bellwether for decades. Democrats in the Golden State have used their lock on the legislature to create social experiments, including a more obnoxious state version of the Environmental Protection Agency. Beginning next year, the state will tax carbon dioxide, something Congress feared to do when Democrats held the majority. Now the left-coast liberals think Obamacare doesn’t go far enough.

State officials have dug in their heels and are ordering churches and other religious institutions to pay for abortions through their insurance policies. Even President Obama made a half-hearted attempt to disguise his contempt for religious scruples by giving churches an exemption and offering an “accommodation” that shifts insurance money around so that the payments appear less direct.

A recent Government Accountability Office report confirms that the accommodation is mostly just for show. Auditors found that 83 percent of insurance plans examined routinely mixed Obamacare subsidies with the policies they have covering abortion, even though the law requires separate pools and payments. So, no matter what, policyholders were paying for the killing of the unborn whether they liked it or not. Of the 18 insurers the government auditors examined, “all but three issuers indicated that the [abortion] benefit is not subject to any restrictions, limitations or exclusions.” In two cases, that “restriction” was a limit of one abortion per year.

California officials decided that even this sleazy arrangement was insufficiently radical enough for their tastes. In August, the state Department of Managed Health Care canceled the policies at Loyola Marymount University and Santa Clara University, Catholic institutions, and at Alpine Christian Fellowship, Faith Baptist Church, Calvary Chapel, the Shepherd of the Hills Church, Skyline Church and Foothill Church. Their insurance plans failed to pay for abortions of convenience.

In a letter to Blue Cross of California, Michelle Rouillard, the head of California’s Department of Managed Health Care, explained that “all health care plan must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally.” That is to say, every health plan must pay for abortions, without “exclusions or limitations.”

The Life Legal Defense Fund and the Alliance Defending Freedom lodged a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — the first step in a legal challenge — charging California officials with violating the Hyde-Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment, a law that forbids government from discriminating against health care plans “on the basis that the [plan] does not … provide coverage of … abortions.”

“Forcing a church to be party to elective abortion is one of the utmost-imaginable assaults on our most fundamental American freedoms,” says alliance attorney Casey Mattox. “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.”

The enforcement mechanism for this law ought to be familiar to liberals in Washington, who have gleefully used federal purse strings to compel the states to adopt laws such as the 21-year-old legal drinking age and the 55 miles-per-hour speed limit. Now the tables are turned, and California could lose billions in federal funding if it continues to disregard the federal rule against canceling insurance policies because they don’t subsidize abortion.

In the showdown between state and federal power, California officials will have to decide whether their spite for religious freedom is stronger than their appetite for federal cash. We don’t expect to see the state mailing checks back to Washington any time soon.

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