September 7, 2022

Court Rules California Cannot Force Church Health Plans to Cover Abortion

A group of churches in California won a legal challenge against the State of California last month. In 2014, the state mandated that all employers include abortion coverage in their health plans. The group of churches objects to abortion due to their religious beliefs, but California would not honor that objection. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit on their behalf in 2015, and they finally won their challenge seven years later.

US District Chief Judge Kimberly Mueller wrote in his ruling that California violated the churches' First Amendment rights. California said that it only considered exemptions that came directly from health plans, not individual employers. It argued that it would be impossible to consider exemption requests from so many employers, so it had a compelling interest to ignore them.

Mueller disagreed, writing that the “denial of the Churches’ request for exceptions to accommodate their religious beliefs, based solely on the fact that those requests did not originate with a plan, was not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest.” She later continued, “Even assuming similar religious challenges materialized in California in large numbers, [California] has not offered evidence showing that entertaining these religious objections would be so difficult and time-consuming that ‘DMHC’s operations would grind to a halt.'”