Thanks to a reversal by Governor Jerry Brown’s administration, two Catholic universities, Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount, have now been prevented from offering insurance plans for their employees that refused coverage for “elective” abortions and only permitted abortions if the woman’s life were in danger or her health could be severely damaged, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Brown’s administration had previously allowed such plans to be available; Loyola Marymount had put that policy into place in January, while Santa Clara was to follow suit next year.
But now Brown’s administration has caved to abortion-rights advocates and leaders of the Legislature’s Women’s Caucus, claiming it is only following state law that forces health insurance plans to cover all abortions. On Friday, the Department of Managed Health Care sent letters to the insurance companies for both universities claiming that if the insurance companies offered the plans barring abortions, they would violate a 1975 state law that forces group health plans to cover all basic services. Those “basic services” are explained by the legalese as those that are “medically necessary.”
In the letter, Michelle Rouillard, the director of the department, said, “Abortion is a basic health care service … the California Constitution prohibits health plans from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy. Thus, all health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally.”
Rouillard also informed the insurance companies to check all their health plans to ascertain if they are legal.
Last fall, both universities were informed by their insurers, Anthem Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente, that the state permitted the plans barring abortions, and the universities subsequently announced they would offer the plans.
Santa Clara’s president, Michael Engh, had said, “Our core commitments as a Catholic University are incompatible with the inclusion of elective abortion in the university’s health plan.”
Both schools employ more than 1,000 people. At both schools, faculty protested the offering of the abortion-free policies, asserting that the schools had asserted they were open to people of all faiths. Loyola Marymount answered the protests by offering plans to employees that would enable employees to pay more for abortion coverage by using a private administrator.
The federal health care law does not require insurance coverage for abortion, but California law insists that abortion is protected by statute and by the state’s constitutional privacy protections.
Beth Parker, chief counsel for Planned Parenthood in California, said, “We’re thrilled that the state is complying with California law and ensuring that women of California have access to all reproductive health services.”