The federal government this week canceled a scheduled $200 million allocation of funds to California for violating the Weldon Amendment, which protects individuals and groups from being forced to pay for abortions.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights said it has referred the University of Vermont Medical Center to the Department of Justice for investigation for allegedly forcing a nurse to assist in an elective abortion against her conscience.
The HHS said California has been illegally “mandating that all health care plans subject to regulation by the California Department of Managed Health Care cover abortion without exclusion or limitation.”
The mandate affected the policies of more than 28,000 individuals who had opted for insurance that did not cover elective abortions.
“California’s mandate violates a federal antidiscrimination law known as the Weldon Amendment, which protects entities from being forced to provide, pay for, or provide coverage for abortions,” the HHS said. “California has refused to come into compliance with the Weldon Amendment, despite several demands from OCR as well as offers from OCR to assist it in coming into compliance.”
HHS Secretary Alex Azar said that under President Trump, HHS “has worked like never before to enforce laws Congress has passed to protect Americans’ religious freedom and conscience rights.”
“California and the University of Vermont Medical Center have violated federal conscience laws and refused to work with us to take corrective action, so we are now taking action to hold them to account,” he said.
OCR Director Roger Severino said: “Entities that receive HHS funds should think twice before flouting federal law and refusing to come into compliance. As a result of our actions today, California will be losing $200 million in federal funds per quarter, and UVMMC will have to answer for its conduct in court. Whatever one thinks of the legality of abortion, no one should be punished for declining to pay for or assist in the taking of human life.”
California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is under threat of a recall, reacted sarcastically: ‘Nothing like the ‘pro-life’ party eliminating healthcare during a GLOBAL PANDEMIC.”
He tweeted that his state will “survive” without the money for now but the “frail, pathetic patriarchal system” that eliminated the funding “won’t.”
Nothing like the “pro-life” party eliminating healthcare during a GLOBAL PANDEMIC.
California will survive without this $$ for now — but their frail, pathetic patriarchal system they are so desperate to protect won’t. https://t.co/FNDbqpOhEy
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) December 17, 2020
A Catholic order of religious sisters and a non-profit Christian church both alleged that state officials who approve over 96% of “commercial and public health plan enrollment” began mandating abortion coverage in 2014, without exclusion or limitation.
The OCR ruled earlier this year that California was in violation, but the state refused to comply.
The department determined that a $200 million disallowance of Medicaid FFP funds each quarter is the most appropriate mechanism to enforce the Weldon Amendment against California and induce compliance.
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