US

Trump administration to cut $200million in health care funding to California over abortions

The Trump administration said Wednesday it was cutting $200million in federal healthcare funding to California because the state requires insurance providers to cover abortions.

The US Department of Health and Human Services said it will withhold the funding from Medicaid in the new fiscal quarter starting in January and ‘if the state does not come into compliance’ the department will cut an additional $200million per fiscal quarter.

The administration warned California earlier this year that it could lose federal funding over a 2014 regulation mandating that employers and private insurance plans pay for abortions.

The Department of Health and Human Services determined that the state was violating a federal anti-discrimination law, known as the Weldon Amendment, that protects insurers from being forced to provide abortion coverage, the department said in a statement.

The Trump administration on Wednesday said it will withhold $200million in health care funding to California due to a state law requiring insurance providers to cover abortions. President Trump is seen above at the White House on Saturday

Pro-choice protesters are seen above in Irvine, California, on June 19, 2019

Pro-choice protesters are seen above in Irvine, California, on June 19, 2019

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in the statement that California had violated federal conscience laws and refused to take corrective action. 

‘So we are now taking action to hold them to account,’ he said.

The Office of Civil Rights, a division of the Health and Human Services department, initially investigated California based on complaints filed by a Catholic order of religious sisters and a nonprofit Christian church that objected to ‘paying for elective abortion insurance for themselves and their colleagues,’ the statement said.

‘Whatever one thinks of the legality of abortion, no one should be punished for declining to pay for or assist in the taking of human life,’ Roger Severino, director of the Office of Civil Rights, said in the statement.

The incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden could reverse the decision.

Biden has nominated California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, a supporter of abortion rights, to head the Health and Human Services agency.

The office of Governor Gavin Newsom criticized the move as an attempt ‘to score cheap political points,’ saying in an emailed comment Wednesday it ‘will continue to stand up for reproductive health and push back against this extreme presidential overreach.’

During his presidency, Trump has embraced socially conservative policies, particularly on abortion. 

He’s appointed judges who oppose it, cut taxpayer funding and painted Democrats who support abortion rights as extreme in their views. 

Trump has undergone a dramatic evolution on the issue of abortion from his days as a freewheeling New York deal-maker, when he described himself as ‘very pro-choice’ in a 1999 interview on NBC’s Meet the Press.

By 2016, however, Trump said his views had changed and that he was now opposed to abortion except in the case of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at risk.

The office of Governor Gavin Newsom criticized the move as an attempt 'to score cheap political points,' saying in an emailed comment Wednesday it 'will continue to stand up for reproductive health and push back against this extreme presidential overreach.' Newsom is seen in the above file photo

The office of Governor Gavin Newsom criticized the move as an attempt ‘to score cheap political points,’ saying in an emailed comment Wednesday it ‘will continue to stand up for reproductive health and push back against this extreme presidential overreach.’ Newsom is seen in the above file photo

And to the surprise of many, he has been embraced by the pro-life movement.

In October, the nation’s largest doctors’ group asked the Supreme Court to strike down a Trump administration rule that’s had a far-reaching impact on family planning by prohibiting taxpayer-funded clinics from referring women for abortions.

The American Medical Association acted after two US appeals courts issued conflicting rulings on the legality of the Trump administration restrictions, which apply to clinics that mainly serve low-income women.

Last year the Trump administration finalized a rule that prohibits clinics from referring pregnant women for abortions and imposes other restrictions, including a requirement for strict financial and physical separation of family planning facilities from ones that provide abortions.

As a result, more than 900 out of nearly 4,000 clinics receiving federal funds left the program, including Planned Parenthood and its affiliates. 

Advocates say the exodus has disrupted care for women who receive birth control and routine medical attention from the clinics. 

The program usually serves some 4 million clients, and the AMA says that was down about 20 per cent last year.

The Trump administration’s regulation ‘warps and decimates’ Title X, as the federal family planning program is known, the AMA said in its petition asking the Supreme Court to take the case.

An appeals court based in San Francisco upheld the Trump administration’s regulations, but a second court based in Richmond, Virginia, ruled in a Maryland case that the restrictions were invalid. 

The AMA says that means the administration’s abortion referral rule is in effect everywhere but Maryland.

Biden has promised to rescind the Trump administration’s family planning rule and also supports allowing federal programs to pay for abortions.    


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