CNA contacted Loyola Marymount University and Santa Clara University for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.
Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Virginia-based Cardinal Newman Society, said the Weldon Amendment action against California was “very encouraging.”
“The California mandate was a brazen violation in need of enforcement, but pro-abortion politics got in the way. Without the Trump administration’s leadership on this, we would have never seen action,” said Reilly, whose organization focuses on strengthening Catholic fidelity in education.
“Abortion is not healthcare, and it certainly has no place in truly Catholic education,” he told CNA Feb. 21. “This is a mandate that no Catholic college should have obeyed. They should have fought the mandate all the way to the Supreme Court. But certainly, if the mandate is repealed, no faithful Catholic college should provide abortion coverage voluntarily.”
In 2013, Hanink told the National Catholic Register he thought “bureaucratic incompetence” was behind the inclusion of abortion coverage. The university had dropped the coverage in 1988 but it somehow returned to the health plan before 2013.
When California officials in 2014 required health plans to cover abortions, their mandate was so broad it did not exempt churches and religious communities.
In last month’s notice, federal authorities sided with complaints from two groups, Skyline Wesleyan Church of La Mesa and the Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit. Both had objected to being forced to cover abortions.
The HHS Office of Civil Rights estimated that California’s abortion coverage mandate wrongly affected at least 35 employer groups serving over 28,000 enrollees, including 13 groups that met California’s definition of “religious employer.” It gave the state of California 30 days to comply with federal law, or face limits on federal HHS funds.
Some California authorities, like Gov. Gavin Newsom, voiced defiance.
“Despite a federal opinion four years ago confirming California’s compliance with the Weldon Amendment, 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,” he 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.”
In June 2016, Obama Administration officials rejected the California Catholic Conference’s federal complaint against the mandate. The HHS Office for Civil Rights said it found no violation of the Weldon Amendment.
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At that time, leaders with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the ruling was “contrary to the plain meaning of the law.” They said it was “shocking” that the federal government allowed California to force all employers, including churches, to fund and facilitate elective abortions.
The effort to remove abortion coverage from university health plans sparked division at the Catholic universities, the National Catholic Register reported in September 2013. A group of faculty members wrote to then-president David Burcham and then-chair of the board of trustees Kathleen Aikenhead objecting to the removal.
“LMU can either be a great American Catholic university in the Jesuit and Marymount traditions or it can be an institution that demands obedience to and conformity with Catholic doctrine; it cannot be both,” they said.
In 2013 the Santa Clara University chapter of the American Association of University Professors responded to the decision to drop abortion coverage, alleging that the decision “caused widespread concern on campus about the limitation of women's rights and the failure to follow established governance procedure.”
“The campus chapter was active in facilitating a campus response to the decision, including coordinating a special meeting of the Faculty Senate to consider a course of action,” the chapter’s website said.
Santa Clara University faculty voiced their rejection of the changes to the health care plan by a vote of 215 to 89 in December 2013, the California Lawyer magazine reported. Before the policy was revised in 2013, Santa Clara’s abortion coverage also applied to dependents of faculty and staff.