The Health and Human Services Department warned California on Friday that it would cut off some of its federal funding if it continued mandating universal abortion coverage, arguing that doing so violated the conscience rights of all Americans.
News of the violation notice came on the same day as the March for Life rally, where President Trump made history by becoming the first president to attend the annual gathering of pro-life activists.
“Once again, President Trump’s administration is delivering on his promise to protect human life and all Americans’ freedom of conscience,” Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said in a press release.
Roger Severino, who leads the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), denounced California for “forcing people of goodwill to subsidize the taking of human life.” According to HHS, more than 28,000 people in the state were unable to access plans that didn’t cover elective abortions.
HHS argued that the state violated the Weldon Amendment, which blocks federal funding for states that discriminate against providers who refuse to cover abortion. The issue arose after a Catholic order of religious sisters and a nonprofit Christian church complained about the alleged violations.
“With this Notice,” the department said, “OCR requests that California inform OCR, within thirty days, whether California will continue to enforce its requirement that all health plans cover elective abortions, or whether it will agree to take corrective action and remedy the effect of its discriminatory conduct.”
“No one in America should be forced to pay for or cover other people’s abortions,” Severino said. The administration previously came under fire after OCR expanded protections for doctors who held “conscience” objections to performing abortions and other procedures.
According to Politico, California politicians pledged to defy the administration’s decision.
“The Trump administration would rather rile up its base to score cheap political points and risk access to care for millions than do what’s right,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said. “California will continue to protect a woman’s right to choose, and we won’t back down from defending reproductive freedom for everybody — full stop.”
Attorney General Xavier Becerra similarly tweeted that the state would fight the decision “by any means necessary.”
“Make no mistake, this attack on California is just one more attempt to chip away at reproductive rights and access to abortion,” he said.
The controversy was just the latest move by Trump that positioned him as a warrior on the abortion issue. Prior to the March for Life, Trump flouted the legacy of Roe v. Wade by using its anniversary to institute a National Sanctity of Human Life Day.
Trump’s campaign also launched a coalition this week that’s dedicated to galvanizing pro-life voters toward supporting his reelection.