This past Thursday, one California district court issued a ruling that stated that a new state mandate forcing companies, which includes all religious organizations, to pay for any elective abortions as a standard part of their health insurance plans is entirely unconstitutional.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California issued a ruling that sided with a group of California churches — Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in Chino, Foothill Church in Glendora, and the Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch — as a result of their challenge to the state’s Knox Keene Health Care Service Plan Act of 1975.
The court issued its ruling against the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC), which, back in 2014, sent out letters to a group of seven private health insurers “directing them to remove any limitations on or exclusions of abortion care services from the health care coverage they offered to various employers,” which seemingly included the trio of plaintiff churches.
Due to the churches each employing over a total of 50 full-time employees, they are required to offer health insurance to their employees under state law.
DMHC sent out the letters in the wake of Planned Parenthood requesting the state to “fix” and exemptions “to ensure that employers cannot deny women coverage of abortion services,” as seen in emails shared by attorneys for Alliance Defending Freedom.
A nonprofit legal organization tasked with the protection of religious freedoms that also represented the churches, officially filed a motion this past April calling on the court to “definitively rule in their favor and allow the churches to operate according to their religious beliefs, which uphold the sanctity of unborn lives.”
The senior counsel for the nonprofit, Jeremiah Galus, claimed that the government did not have the right to force religious organizations to fund abortions, which would directly violate their conscience and faith.
“For years, California has unconstitutionally targeted faith-based organizations, so we’re pleased the court has found this mandate unconstitutional and will allow the churches we represent to operate freely according to their religious beliefs,” Galus expressed.
“Elective abortions are not part of ‘basic health care,’” he went on. “They have no business being forced into the medical coverage provided by churches that do not wish to support terminating lives due to very real, sincere, and well-known faith convictions.”
After their appointment by former President Barack Obama, Chief Judge Kimberly J. Mueller issued a summary in her opinion for the court that the director of the DMHC, Mary Watanabe, “has not shown ‘[she] lacks other means of achieving [her] desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion by [plaintiffs].’”
“The Director’s denial of the Churches’ request for exceptions to accommodate their religious beliefs, based solely on the fact that those requests did not originate with a plan, was not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest,” stated Mueller.