By: Bill Cox
For a year-and-half, the state of California has been openly discriminating against religious employers in blatant violation of federal civil rights laws. And the federal agency charged with upholding those laws has declined to do so, despite receiving multiple complaints from adversely affected California employers and numerous entreaties from members of Congress.
In August 2014, the California Department of Managed Health Care, suddenly and without prior notice, issued a mandate to private market healthcare plans in California requiring them to cover all abortions as a “basic health care service” – including late-term and gender selective abortions. (Prior to this mandate, California limited coverage to medically necessary abortions.) The new mandate violates a longstanding federal civil rights law – the Weldon Amendment. Congress first enacted Weldon in 2002 to protect healthcare providers and insurers from governmental discrimination on the basis that they choose not to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.
The victims of this type of governmental discrimination have only one recourse: file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR). This has proven entirely futile. Numerous faith-based groups in California filed complaints with the OCR a year-and-a-half ago, but have yet to obtain information on the status or timing of the agency’s investigation. Repeated inquiries by members of Congress have similarly been ignored, belying Health and Human Service Secretary Burwell’s regular assurances that her office takes violations of Weldon “seriously” and that the OCR is investigating California’s violation of Weldon “expeditiously.”