While California’s pregnancy resource centers resist efforts to force them into complicity with abortion, many churches and religious institutions in the state are fighting a similar battle.

Under a 2014 order from the California Department of Managed Health Care (DHMC), health insurers in the state must cover abortions in all plans—including those used by churches. (See “Abortion Coercion” from the October 2016 issue of Citizen at http://bit.ly/2zL7qlg.)

It’s a move that’s being challenged by churches represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in two federal lawsuits, Foothill Church v. Rouillard and Skyline Wesleyan Church v. California Department of Managed Care.

ADF attorneys got bad news last September when U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller dismissed the Foothill case, saying they hadn’t presented an adequate claim. She left them an opportunity to re-file an amended suit, however. In October, ADF did just that, bringing new information to the court’s attention that had been discovered while researching the Skyline case, which is still active before a different court.

“We learned a lot about what the state of California did and why,” says ADF Legal counsel Jeremiah Galus. “We confirmed what we suspected: This policy was instigated by Planned Parenthood and some other abortion activists.”

Those groups were upset when two Catholic colleges removed elective abortion from their health coverage, Galus says. So they began lobbying DMHC to change its interpretation of state coverage requirements, insisting abortion is covered by “basic health care services.” This flies in the face of actual California law, which specifically exempts religious bodies even from covering contraception out of respect for their convictions.

“While we’re disappointed in the most recent ruling, we’re optimistic that the court will eventually see this for what it is—an unnecessary and unprecedented infringement of religious belief,” Galus says. “The State of California didn’t have to do this by law, contrary to officials’ claims. And frankly, that was the only reason they did it—to single out religious institutions and prevent them from operating in accord with their beliefs about the sanctity of life.”

Originally published in the January/February 2018 issue of Citizen magazine.