The Trump administration on Wednesday said it would pull $200 million in Medicaid funds from California due to a state law that forces insurance plans to cover abortion.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in a press release said it would “disallow” $200 million in Medicaid funds each quarter beginning in January due to the state “illegally mandating that all health care plans” cover “abortion without exclusion or limitation.”
HHS was acting on complaints from Skyline Wesleyan Church and Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit, a Catholic order of religious sisters.
“Because of their respect for the sanctity of all human life, the religious sisters and other complainants object to paying for elective abortion insurance for themselves and their colleagues,” the press release said.
HHS said California was in violation of the Weldon Amendment, which prohibits federal funds from going to state or local programs that “discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.”
California’s action forced 28,000 citizens out of insurance plans “that up until that time had chosen to not cover elective abortions,” according to a January 2020 notice of violation.
Meanwhile, HHS on Wednesday also said it was referring a case to the Justice Department alleging the University of Vermont Medical Center illegally “forced a nurse to assist in an elective abortion procedure” over the nurse’s “conscience-based objections,” HHS said. The medical center has refused to change its policies, HHS said.
“Under President Trump, HHS has worked like never before to enforce laws Congress has passed to protect Americans’ religious freedom and conscience rights,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “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.”
The Biden administration could reverse the action.
Roger Severino, director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights, 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,” Severino said. “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.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Matthew Starling
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.