Email exchanges showed Planned Parenthood pressuring California authorities to issue a 2014 ruling that forced churches and religious organizations to pay for elective abortions in their health care plans.
By Martin M. Barillas, LifeSite News, April 15, 2019
Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit law firm that represents the churches, filed an appeal against the ruling, arguing that it violates constitutional protections of religious freedom and conscience. In the April 4 filing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on behalf of Foot Hill Church, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, and Shepherd of the Hills Church, ADF asked the court to reverse a 2016 Obama administration ruling that requires churches and religious organizations to provide abortion coverage in their employees’ health plans.
Another email between a Planned Parenthood lobbyist and a staffer at HHS noted that a March 13, 2014 meeting with HHS deputy secretary for the Office of Legislative Affairs Donna Campbell served to “explore whether there is a regulatory/administrative fix” to prevent churches and religious groups from retaining an exemption from covering abortions.
ADF has submitted emails exchanged by Planned Parenthood, the California Department of Managed Healthcare (DMHC), and the California Health and Human Services Agency that reveal how the abortion-provider asked state authorities to “fix” the “issue” of churches and religious organizations who were originally exempted from the abortion mandate.
“The government shouldn’t be forcing churches to pay for abortion, and it is shameful and inappropriate that the government did so in this case at the bidding of Planned Parenthood,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jeremiah Galus in a statement. Galus said, “California officials are required to follow the law and legal precedent, not the dictates of groups that have an axe to grind against religious organizations that don’t share their views on abortion. We are asking the 9th Circuit to strike down this obviously unconstitutional mandate.”
The emails from Planned Parenthood lobbyists specified Catholic universities among the institutions targeted to provide abortion coverage. Under rules in place in March 2014, employees of Loyola Marymount University had been able to obtain third-party coverage for abortion services, while Santa Clara University intended to come to a similar arrangement, according to an email from Planned Parenthood that was addressed to staff at California HHS.
Another email between a Planned Parenthood lobbyist and a staffer at HHS noted that a March 13, 2014 meeting with HHS deputy secretary for the Office of Legislative Affairs Donna Campbell served to “explore whether there is a regulatory/administrative fix” to prevent churches and religious groups from retaining an exemption from covering abortions. According to the email, the lobbyist and Campbell discussed whether “legislation is needed” in order to address the exemption. In any case, the email noted that Planned Parenthood had suggested legislation it had already drafted.
An email on March 17, 2014 to Campbell from the lobbyist said the abortion provider would prefer to “see [religious exemptions] resolved without legislation.” It expressed concern that HHS was not ready to make the changes demanded. In a political strategy move, Planned Parenthood offered that it would not have the new legislation introduced if the state agencies could rescind their approval of health care plans that were exempt from the abortion mandate.
“Simply saying that [employer] healthcare plans only need to cover ‘medically necessary’ abortions has been the source of the issue and [this] does not solve the problem,” the email said.
The lobbyist for Planned Parenthood offered a deal to the California state functionary:
[O]ur folks would feel positive about pursuing an administrative solution, in lieu of legislation this year, if the Administration would agree to:
– Going forward, DMHC [Department of Managed Health Care] will not approve any further plans that exclude coverage for abortion or other reproductive health care service. This includes a clarification that there is no such thing as an elective or voluntary abortion exclusion. Simply saying that plans only need to cover “medically necessary” abortions has been the source of the issue and does not solve the problem.
– DMHC will rescind their approval of the Anthem Blue Cross & Kaiser plans (along with any other plans that include an abortion exclusion) so that those two providers cannot offer plans to employers in the future that will exclude abortion.
– DMHC will find a solution to fix the already approved plans being offered to employees of LMU for 2014 and SCU for 2015.
By August of that year, DMHC ruled that no health care plans in the state were exempt from covering abortions. DMHC would soon thereafter declare that abortion is health care in a missive to Blue Cross of California.
After a Planned Parenthood lobbyist emailed Campbell in late April 2014 to “check in on” the progress of HHS and CDMHC in finding a “solution” to the abortion-provider’s demands within six weeks, Campbell responded, “We are still working with DMHC on the legal and practical issues related to the ‘updated’ interpretation, if you will.” Having thanked Planned Parenthood for “checking in,” Campbell offered a “more thorough progress report for [Planned Parenthood] in mid-May.” By August of that year, DMHC ruled that no health care plans in the state were exempt from covering abortions. DMHC would soon thereafter declare that abortion is health care in a missive to Blue Cross of California.
Joining ADF and the Life Legal Defense Foundation, the Catholic bishops of California filed complaints with the federal government against the California ruling. They cited the Weldon Amendment, which denies federal funding to states and local jurisdictions that discriminate against health care entities that refuse to provide coverage for abortions, refer for them, or pay for them. However, the Obama administration’s Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rejected the complaints in 2016, finding “no violation of the Weldon Amendment” and “closing this matter without further action.”