State de­fies threat of fund loss over abor­tion cov­er­age


SACRA­MENTO — Cal­i­for­nia’s Democratic lead­ers were de­fi­ant Fri­day af­ter the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion threat­ened to cut fed­eral health care fund­ing to the na­tion’s most pop­u­lous state over its re­quire­ment that in­surance plans cover abor­tions.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s an­nounce­ment came hours be­fore Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump be­came the first pres­i­dent to ad­dress par­tic­i­pants in the anti-abor­tion March for Life in per­son, telling marchers gath­ered in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal that “un­born chil­dren have never had a stronger de­fender in the White House.”

He spoke af­ter the fed­eral Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Depart­ment is­sued a “no­tice of vi­o­la­tion,” giv­ing Cal­i­for­nia 30 days to com­ply with a fed­eral law known as the Wel­don amend­ment. That law bars fed­eral health care fund­ing from be­ing pro­vided to states or en­ti­ties that prac­tice “dis­crim­i­na­tion” against a health care or­ga­ni­za­tion on the ba­sis that it “does not pro­vide, pay for, pro­vide cov­er­age of, or re­fer for abor­tions.”

The head of the HHS Of­fice for Civil Rights, Roger Sev­erino, said Cal­i­for­nia is vi­o­lat­ing that re­stric­tion by re­quir­ing in­surance plans to cover abor­tions. Ac­cord­ing to Sev­erino, 28,000 Cal­i­for­ni­ans had abor­tion-free plans prior to the state’s re­quire­ments and have now lost that op­tion.

Sev­erino said in a state­ment that Cal­i­for­nia

“must stop forc­ing peo­ple of good will to sub­si­dize the tak­ing of hu­man life.”

Trump later used his speech to at­tack Democrats as em­brac­ing “rad­i­cal and ex­treme po­si­tions” on abor­tion, and Democratic lead­ers re­sponded in kind.

Gov. Gavin New­som said that by tak­ing away the state’s health care fund­ing, Trump would be tak­ing tens of bil­lions of dol­lars from kids, se­niors, the poor and the sick.

“And yet you call your­self ‘pro-life’ @re­alDon­aldTrump?” New­som tweeted.

“You sicken me.”

How­ever, Sev­erino did not spec­ify which of many streams of fed­eral health care funds amount­ing to tens of bil­lions of dol­lars might be in jeop­ardy for Cal­i­for­nia. That could in­clude money for com­mu­nity health cen­ters, Med­i­caid health in­surance for low-in­come peo­ple, and ba­sic pub­lic health ac­tiv­i­ties such as ed­u­cat­ing par­ents about vac­cines.

“Our goal is to seek com­pli­ance, and we are go­ing to give them 30 days, so we do not have to cross that bridge,” said Sev­erino. Other

states could also face fed­eral ac­tions.

New­som said a fed­eral opin­ion four years ago con­firmed Cal­i­for­nia’s com­pli­ance with the Wel­don amend­ment. He pledged that Cal­i­for­nia “won’t back down” as the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion tries to “rile up its base to score cheap po­lit­i­cal points.”

Re­li­gious con­ser­va­tives are a core el­e­ment of Trump’s po­lit­i­cal coali­tion, and his ad­min­is­tra­tion has gone out of its way to de­liver on their de­mands. He also has had a run­ning feud with Cal­i­for­nia’s Democratic lead­ers, ac­cus­ing them of fail­ing to do enough to com­bat the state’s home­less­ness cri­sis and fail­ing to prop­erly man­age forest­land to ease the threat of cat­a­strophic wild­fires. Cal­i­for­nia in turn has sued his ad­min­is­tra­tion nearly 70 times, about half over en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

Cal­i­for­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Xavier Be­cerra, a Demo­crat, also was de­fi­ant, declar­ing in a state­ment that “noth­ing changes.”

“Women’s health should never be dan­gled as bait for the sake of po­lit­i­cal grand­stand­ing,” Be­cerra said, ac­cus­ing Trump of “us­ing the of­fi­cial levers of govern­ment to ad­vance his po­lit­i­cal agenda.”

Be­cerra noted the state pre­vi­ously ob­tained a court in­junc­tion a year ago against a rule that would have ended the Affordable Care Act’s con­tra­cep­tion cov­er­age re­quire­ment. He also an­nounced Fri­day that he had asked a fed­eral court to rule on Cal­i­for­nia’s on­go­ing chal­lenge to a Ti­tle X rule that he said would un­der­mine the na­tion’s only fed­eral fam­ily plan­ning pro­gram.


Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has tar­geted Cal­i­for­nia’s re­quire­ment that in­surance cover abor­tions, threat­en­ing to re­duce fed­eral health care fund­ing to the state.

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