HHS warns California that abortion coverage requirement breaks federal law

The Trump administration on Friday announced it is warning California that its requirement that insurers cover elective abortions violates federal law.

The HHS Office for Civil Rights is issuing a notice of violation to California that its requirement violates the Walden Amendment, a provision included in federal spending bills banning government agencies or programs that receive money from the HHS from discriminating against any physician, hospital, health insurance plan because they don’t provide abortions or abortion coverage.

The administration is giving California 30 days to comply with the notice.

Other states including Oregon, New York and Washington could also be vulnerable to similar actions, but Office for Civil Rights Director Roger Severino said HHS would not comment on ongoing investigations.

“We are sending a message that if any state does what California has done, they can be subject to an investigation if they do not come into compliance,” he said.

The notice was based on complaints by Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit and Skyline Wesleyan Church, according to Severino. Three judges on the California Court of Appeals in August dismissed a lawsuit by the Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit challenging the requirement.

The California Attorney General’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Trump administration is fighting several battles on reproductive rights.

The CMS in December finalized a rule requiring insurers selling plans on Affordable Care Act exchanges to send enrollees a separate bill for the portion of premiums that go toward abortion coverage. Collectively across all insurers, the CMS estimated the cost of implementing the rule will total about $385 million for nearly 3 million hours of work.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 17 announced it will hear two cases on Trump administration rulemaking that would allow more employers to opt out of providing no-cost birth control. Federal judges have so far stopped the rules from taking effect.

President Donald Trump on Friday became the first sitting president to speak in person at the anti-abortion March for Life rally.