The Obama administration refuses to enforce federal law that protects Americans’ freedom of conscience, a Christian legal aid group says.
In 2014, California began mandating that employee health plans cover elective abortions. A state agency is refusing to exempt churches from the mandate, said Casey Mattox, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom.
“Churches should never be forced to cover elective abortion in their insurance plans, and for 10 years the Weldon Amendment has protected the right to have plans that do not include coverage for abortion on demand,” Mattox said in a statement.
The federal Weldon Amendment prohibits states receiving taxpayer funds under federal law from discriminating against health insurance plans that don’t cover abortion, Mattox has argued.
“The administration’s refusal to enforce [the Weldon Amendment] continues its pattern of enforcing laws it wants to enforce, refusing to enforce others, and inventing new interpretations of others out of whole cloth,” Mattox said in a formal statement.
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“California has outlawed the licensing of any health care plan in the state that does not cover elective abortion. It is perfectly clear that California is violating the law and the Obama administration has frequently been refusing to enforce the law,” Mattox told The Daily Signal.
Alliance Defending Freedom filed two lawsuits in California challenging the rule.
Since the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, requires employers to provide health insurance coverage, California churches have been left without a way to opt out of paying for abortions, Alliance Defending Freedom says.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Mattox said, “is obligated to go enforce this law itself, and it has decided that it is not going to enforce the law.”
“Basically, the administration is speaking out of both sides of its mouth.”—@CaseyMattox
“The administration’s refusal to enforce [the Weldon Amendment] continues its pattern of enforcing laws it wants to enforce, refusing to enforce others, and inventing new interpretations of others out of whole cloth,” Mattox said in a statement.
The Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services sent a response letter to several formal complaints filed by Life Legal Defense Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom over the California Department of Managed Health Care’s decision to force all employers to cover elective abortions.
In the letter, the Obama administration dismissed the “right of conscience” complaints after concluding that California’s law does not violate federal law, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
Jocelyn Samuels, director of the federal agency’s Office for Civil Rights, wrote in the response letter: “A finding that [California Department of Managed Health Care] has violated the Weldon Amendment might require the government to rescind all funds appropriated under the Appropriations Act to the state of California.”
Rescinding the taxpayer money, Samuels added, “would raise substantial questions about the constitutionality of the Weldon Amendment.”
Addressing that position, Alliance Defending Freedom’s Mattox said:
The Obama administration says enforcing the Weldon Amendment against California would violate the Constitution because you would be withholding all of these funds from the state. Which is very interesting because at the exact same time, you have the administration telling North Carolina that it’s going to withhold funds under the exact same appropriations bill.
The Justice Department sent North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, a letter in May saying the state’s “bathroom bill” violated federal law. The measure, which McCrory signed in March, made bathrooms in government buildings accessible based on a person’s biological sex, not his or her gender identity.
This is a “blatant contradiction,” Mattox said.
“Basically, the administration is speaking out of both sides of its mouth,” he said.