As I posted a little earlier today, unlike the last two Republican presidents, Donald Trump is not only talking the talk, he’s walking the walk when it comes to abortion.
Currently, California is one of a handful of states, along with New York, Oregon and Washington. Illinois, Maine, New York and Oregon, which require insurance companies operating in the state to provide coverage for abortions.
Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR), announced an action to protect human life and the conscience rights of all Americans.
OCR is issuing a Notice of Violation to the state of California, formally notifying California that it cannot impose universal abortion coverage mandates on health insurance plans and issuers in violation of federal conscience laws. California has deprived over 28,000 people of plans that did not cover elective abortion, but now must cover abortion due to California’s mandate.
OCR’s investigation arose from two complaints alleging that California engaged in unlawful discrimination when California’s Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) ordered, in August 2014, that all health plan issuers under its jurisdiction must offer coverage for elective abortion in every plan they offer. The two complainants are the Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit, a Catholic order of religious sisters, and Skyline Wesleyan Church, a non-profit Christian church—organizations whose religious beliefs preclude them, in good conscience, from helping to pay for insurance coverage for elective abortions.
Pursuant to 45 CFR Part 88 (effective March 2011), OCR has completed the investigation of the complaints and determined 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. With this Notice, OCR requests that California inform OCR, within thirty days, whether California will continue to enforce its requirement that all health plans cover elective abortions, or whether it will agree to take corrective action and remedy the effect of its discriminatory conduct.
This is how the media is spinning it.
The move is in line with other Trump administration actions targeting the progressive state over issues including environmental standards, immigration policies and homelessness. It was also timed to coincide with the March for Life on the National Mall, where President Donald Trump will become the first president to address the anti-abortion demonstration in person as he works to shore up support from social conservatives.
The announcement came as President Trump, who is aggressively courting religious conservatives ahead of his reelection campaign, on Friday became the first sitting president to address the annual March for Life in Washington.
The administration’s initiatives challenging abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood have won wide acclaim among religious conservatives, who have emerged as a key electoral base for Trump.
New York Times:
President Trump, who once said he was “very pro-choice” has worked to earn the support of anti-abortion groups with a series of actions, including preventing organizations that receive federal family planning money from referring patients for abortions and appointing judges to the Supreme Court who have a record of conservative rulings in abortion cases.
Last year on the day of the March for Life, the Trump administration levied a similar accusation against California, saying it violated federal conscience protection amendments with a state law that required religiously-oriented “crisis pregnancy centers” to inform women with unintended pregnancies about the option of abortion. But that federal action appeared to be largely symbolic because the Supreme Court had already struck down the California law on free speech grounds.
California is claiming that because Obama found them in compliance with the law that the Trump action is both frivolous and vindictive. I’m sure some stump-broke Democrat judge in the Ninth Circuit will agree with that point of view. That doesn’t, however, mean that it is true. This from the HHS press release:
“Once again, President Trump’s administration is delivering on his promise to protect human life and all Americans’ freedom of conscience,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “Under President Trump, HHS has been vigorously enforcing the statutes Congress passed to protect Americans’ consciences and institutionalizing these protections within the department’s civil rights work.”
“No one in America should be forced to pay for or cover other people’s abortions,” said Roger Severino, Director of OCR. “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,” Severino concluded.
It is a safe bet that something has changed materially that has persuaded HHS to do this and they would not do so if they knew they were going to get demolished in court.
The second point is motivation. A big deal is being made of Trump doing this in conjunction with the March for Life and casting it as a purely political act. It may very well be a political act. Who cares. As the saying go, good policy is good politics. Slamming the door shut on the fingers of the abortion industry is not only good policy, it is righteous policy. If that policy also pleases tens of millions of voters, so much the better. Even taken in the worst light, that Trump is cynically using his administrative clout to cultivate pro-life voters for 2020, who cares. The abortion industry is still squeezed. Babies are still being saved. The outcome is the same no matter his motive.