You may have heard that the Obama administration has just decided that it’s “ok” for the state of California to force religious institutions’ health insurers to cover elective abortions. This is a terrible precedent that other pro-abortion states will surely take advantage of.
Here’s how it happened.
Because the federal government gives so much money to states (under the Constitution’s “spending clause”), the feds can influence state policies by threatening to withhold money if the states “do X” or “fail to do Y”. When state lawmakers were attempting to insert abortion into even religious entities’ operations, Congress passed the “Weldon Amendment.”
This is language present every year since 2005, in the annual law concerning federal health spending. It says that:
“[n]one of the funds made available in this Act [making appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education] may be made available to … a state or local government, if such … government subjects any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.”
It defines “health care entity” to include “an individual physician or other health care professional, a hospital, a provider-sponsored organization, a health maintenance organization, a health insurance plan, or any other kind of health care facility, organization, or plan.”
The Obama administration’s “Civil Rights” division just held that in the case of several Catholic universities, there is no “health care entity” that does not want to cover abortions, since their health insurance companies cover abortions for other clients.
Religious institutions’ next move is uncertain. They might have to begin to self-fund their insurance plans, or to challenge the administration’s interpretation of the Weldon Amendment in court.
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